MAP

14/02/2012 07:44

Baby MAP

 

The 'flying incident' had been the 'beginning of the end' for MAP's childhood. He'd been just a toddler at the time and, as he remembered it, the problem had been to do with being irritated by the necessity of having to crawl from place to place and, occasionally, 'toddle', pulling himself up by means of some strong upright piece of furniture, or other of the fixtures and fittings within the small family's domicile, before staggering a few paces to another such convenient 'post' from which to monitor and gauge his chances of making further ground twoards his goal which, generally spaking, would involve a cold box, a glass, some sticky-sweet liquid and a straw; not necessarily in that order, often the straw and the sticky-sweet liquid were brought into a mutual understanding before the glass was able to take its claims for consideration and, occasionally, the sticky-sweet liquid had to go solo, lips and tongue alone being required to extricate the ambrosia from  the neck of the bottle, only the cold box, though not absolutely essential,remainiing a constant factor, and only because that was where the glorious nectar was kept.

 

 'Don't try to run before you can walk!' was a proverbial maxim that, echoing through the early years of most of MAP's contemoporaries in various forms,'first things first, 'look before you leap' and 'don't put the cart before the horse', being other examples of the same sort of prohibitive advice which, badly translated, meant that things should be done in the proper order at the appropriate time and in the correct way otherwise there would be - unspecified but certainly cataclysmic - dire consequences. MAP, of course, albeit subconsciously,had decided quite early on in his development that that was all nonsense, witness his more pragmatic approach to solving the problem of how to bring together lips,tongue and ambrosia nectar without recourse to straw or glass, an attitude towards the lesser demands of life which was to serve himthroughout his future existences as one of the most famous bawds in history (modest little devil, isn't he  - ed.) but certainly one  who  wouldn'tdream of trying to run before he could walk - if he could fly instead.

 

 Crawling fromhis most recent 'post' by the window from which he'd been observing and monitoring the postman,the snow and the juxtaposed interactions of the two as, struggling through the metre-high snowfall and the blizzard of stinging ice-flakes,the emissary of the envelope had forced  a path to MAP'sportico,surlily deposited a few pieces of worthless advertising material on the mat inside the front door - stuff about the virtues of using 'Grinn' toothpaste  for that 'romantic, fairytale look', 'Homo' washing powder for that Whitey-ness that makes you feel a superior man, at least as far as blacks and homosexuals were concerned, and 'Rose-hip syrup', the properties of which were slightly obscure,but the fact that roses and hips were involved probably meant that young girls and sex figured in the equation somewhere, a hypothesis borne out in the slogan attached to the leaflet that featured a bouquet strategically covering breasts and, as it were, Rose's 'bush', and the strategic placement of a bottle of the mysterious liquid, a glass, a straw and, yes, there it was, peeping out from behind the montage of roses in bloom, the glossy white door and silvery handle of a super-deluxe refrigerator, the boon of lonely sex-starved housewiyes everywhere; the slogan, of course, being 'If you want Rose's hips take Rose-hip syrup'; anyway, as I say crawling from his 'post'  MAP, browsing the colourful literature left by the 'poster of the Envelopes', the 'postie' (as they were so affectionately regarded; at least if you wanted your maild delivered rather than scattered amongst the rose bushes, compost heaps and gutterings of what you were pleased to think of as your 'neighbourhood'), that is, the post 'E' or Early post, the watchdog of the citizenry in the early stages of its awakening into a new and, potentially hazardous, dawn - so, crawling from his 'post' as self-apoointed guardian of the teapot-that-looked-like-a-thatched-cottage on the windowsill, MAP imbibed the essence of the meaning encoded in the glassware et al and proceeded at a rather faster crawl than usual to a 'post' by the door to the kitchen, the 'door-post', as it were, and hoisting himself to a tottering toddling position,tottered and toddled off in the direction of the pantry where he knew his mother had a bottle of the potent mixture stored away 'for a rainy day' as she was so fond of saying for no intelligible purpose as far as MAP had been able to work out - well, alright, it  was snowing, but ice flakes were frozen water, so it probably counted as what his mother called 'raining hard'. To be linguistically correct it was 'hard rain', but MAP was only two and, well, if you think you can make clear the distinction and persuade a court of law to prosecute an infant on the strength of it, go ahead Gunga Din; personally speaking, I'm more interested in what happens when MAP puts tongue, lips and Rose-hip syrup (or Rose's hip syrup -ed.) together,  which he almost instantaneously did, all thoughts of etiquettes involving refrigerators, glasses and straws immediately disappearing from the fringes of his awareness as soon as he espied the small,oblong-shaped,red-hatted container of the miraculous elixir standing soldierly on a shelf far out of his reach -as was recommended in all regulations concerning small oblong-shaped, red-hatted containers of miraculous liquids, ichors and sweetie-seeming unsweet unsweets,unscrewing its red capand gluttonously gulping down a large measure of its rtreacly contents that, perhaps not too surprisingly,tasted a lot like roses smelled (or Rose's 'bush' -ed.), experienced two new emotions for the first time, the fear of the hunted and the satisfaction of the thief. Examining the new sensations he replaced the symbol of his fall, clambered back down to the lino that sporadically covered the tiled floor, and scuttled back from observation post to observation post, using a skilful strategy of rapid crawling, standing motionless inside door jambs, reckless surgings made more dangerous thanks to the desperate weavings, clever faints (shouldn't that be feints? - ed. [feign 't were so - author] ) and 'wobbles' he interspersed therein, before returning to his 'official' post by the window, a warm glow tingling around his nether parts, that which his mother had told him was something to do with his future and children, a slightly confusing piece of information on account of the lack of interest this particular piece of equipment aroused in himself, save for its inconvenient demands with regard to what his father referred to as the 'throne room', an indifference that he could only imagine must be repeated in every other child he was ever likely to come across, so how the two things could possibly be connected in the future he couldn't quite foresee. It was, he mused,something akin to the Eleusian mysteries of Ancient Greece, a series of secret rituals so secret they were secret even from their secret practioners. Secretly MAP decided that, if it took him the rest of his life, he would make the connection between the future,children,and the pleasant feeling inside his pants, he would become Master of Ancient Practices - just as soon as his mother let him go further than the garden gate.

 

 In the meantime he allowed himself to wallow in the glorious sensations spreading from groin to belly, centering somehow in the region of the thumper he sometimes heard in his head during sleepy-time,the blood-pump, making his eyes wsim deliciously in colourful waves of unseen rhythms of soundlessness. I'll probably be a Minstrel, Artist and Poet as well he thought; he was,as you can see,precocious - rather like Mozart, in fact, who apart from composing symphonies at age five also experimented anally with hamsters and gerbils, a little known but true fact concealed from all and sundry because of the deepsensibilities of the families of the young rodents concerned in the covered-up scandal that even shocked the dilettentes of a decadent European society infamous for its tolerance with regard to allmanner of perversions including those involving cuddly toys bothliving and stuffed. They were not so much appalled at the details but the unrepentance of the prodigious prodigy who went on to compose 'The Magic Fuck' and 'The Marriage  of Fuck',pieces written on the subjectof his own sexploits with a penis so large as to be cumbersome,their titles later changed to suit 'public' tastes while privately perfomances degenerated beautifullyinto riotous orgies resulting in such polymorphous perversities as 'violating the vulva with a violin bow', 'vibrating the clitoris with a clavicord', 'fucking the fellator's flute', 'fretfully fingering and frenching the horns' while 'playing the recorder', digital recording not being invented,of course,but Mozart wasn't described as genius for nothing I assure you; it was he whomade the 'connection' between playing the saxophone (didn't Adolf Sax invent the sax in the 1800s? - ed. [not on this time-line - author] ) and paying for sex on the phone, or should that be playing with a sexy faun, something to do with sex and faunication anyway, where was I? Oh yes, MAP's rose-hip syrup - (cunt juice - ed.) induced reverie. Floating awayon a cloud of rose petals, to use a poet's  tired metaphor,MAP was rudely awoken by two things,the turning of a key in the lock of the back door, signalling his mother's return from her 'mission of mercy' to the old gentleman next door, one Mister Abraham,a harmless enoughold coot apart from his constant harping on about the sacrifices his son Zak was  making on his behalfso that he could be comfortable in his old age (vain ramblings, in fact Zak had his sights set on a lamborghini, Canada and a dingy poorhouse for the unsightly old codger with his flat cap and his stinkingly odoriferous pipe that permeated his immediate environment like gangrene in a Napoleonic field hospital) together with his daughter Pat, a swan-like creature with short,tightly curled 20s style natural platinum blonde locks whose neck MAP, for some obscure reason to do with genetics and crudely developing sexual instincts, wanted to sink his teeth into while inserting his index finger into the tummy button which,he assumed,she possessed,the undercarriage situation not being his area of specialized certainty - as yet, though he had hopes that his vampiric lust for carotid artery and vestigial umbilical cordmight bear future fruit in that area.

 

 So, startled by his mother's return, MAP woke to discover that his rising sensations weren't imaginary, the rose-hip miracle (cunnilingus -ed.) having worked  in ways not planned for by the manufacturers (Rose's hips?-ed.), he was presently dangling in the air halfway between floor and ceiling,still rising as if propelled bysomemysterious power centred somewhere between his own hips,whichis how hismother'd found him,legs and feet dangling at one end, torso and head at the other,hismiddle'thrusting',as it were, towards the ceiling, the pleasurable sensations increasing in intensity and pleasurability until...something happened!

 

                                                                                                *

 

 ''E'll be 's Good as Gold,'  promised his mother the doctor.

 

 'It's not as simple as that Dr.Watson, things have to be done in the proper way,we can't have youngsters flying before they can toddle properly,we're going to inject something into his brain so that he won't be  a 'damn nuisance' (he's 'Saddam nuisance' ? - ed.) with all this hovering nonsense.'

 'Hoovering? Are you sure? On the ceiling? But -'

 

 'No buts, and he shouldlearn tomasturbate like all the other kids do rather than hanging around in the air thrusting towards the ceiling in some  kind of weird 'rapture', it's not normal and besides, what about the neighbours?

 

 'There's that, of course, his mother'd reluctantly conceded,'will it affect his concentration, there's school to be considered, you know?

 

 'No, of course not, if anything it'll improve his concentration no end, he won't be able to 'go off rapt rup in a worldof his own' for one thing, will he?'

 

 'No, I suppose.'

 

 'Well, then, where's my syringe?' And grabbing the inoffensive infant by the scruff of the neck, the paediatrician had cheerfully lanced MAP'spinealgland ensuring that his mother's 'little Brahma',as the Yorkshire folk of his aquaintance tended to refer tohim,would never be able to 'fly to heaven' and experience the joys of nirvana -at least without some dexterous futuristic surgery of the highest calibre,and noone wanted that, did they? Not when they xould use his transcendent Brahmic consciousness topersuade 'heaven' to' fly to earth',f or MAP was to be what the mythologists and lore masters defined as a 'daemon of place', a creature that, because he belonged in its sphere, heaven created itself around him, a talent which the unscrupulous used to appropriate 'heaven's gifts', a procedure that had become systematized after one of Earth's periodic world conflicts in which, interned and made to 'concentrate', the 'performances' of children like himself had been monitored and recorded, their talents 'mapped', as it were, the  techniques needed to obtain optimum results from their 'gifts' carefully documented and, later, implemented on a universal scale by educators, medicos, politicos, socio-psychos, military-industrial complex-o's, commandos - and sconomists. Many inhabitants of cities' personalities and psyches were sytematically disintegrated and destroyed, their essences preserved within their husk-like frames, vessels, as it were, for the daemon within, powerless to participate in the paradisal environment it created for itself to dwell in - a 'gift', as it were, from the heavenly sphere to which it belonged but that, thanks to the needle in the skull during infancy, or some other devilishly designed disabler, it was prevented from enjoying, forced to 'share', or, rather, deprived of its 'birthright' by those posing as kindly benefactors, pleased to offer, free 'education', health 'care', gainful useful employment for a pittance, social welfare when the personality had been disintegrated to the point of no return, and the 'opium of the masses, religion, in which the powers of the daemon were harnessed once more for the 'greater good', the daemon,of course, being labelled as daemonically possessive or rather possessed by the demons of lust, greed, covetousness for that which it wouldn't share - that which belonged to it.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 MAP hadn't though too much about his rapturous experience anymore, it'd been Christmas shortly afterwards,and he'd been 'Too wrapped up in that,' as his mother put it, 'to bother with all that flying about in the room and besides,' she remembered, quoting the paediatrician for anyone who cared to listen, 'there are the neighbours to consider.' Clearly a veryimportant factor, noone in the neighbourhood would accept a floating or hovering child at one of their kids' Christmas parties,would they? It would take away some of the mystery,the glamour, if you like, fromthe 'real' plastic, nylon-winged,tinselly icon atop the artificial fir tree in the corner next to or on top of the teevee.

 

 'If you want to fly, there's an aerodrome,' his father would point at some distant speck visibleonly to hismind's eye, 'join the Air Force

or the Air Training Corps to begin with,then later you might get to train with planes, and then you can learn how to fly properly.'

 

 'But I can fly without a plane,' MAP protested like the good little Protestant he was.

 

 'You could flybefore you could walk,we all know that,' his father patiently and laboriously acknowledged, 'but that's not the point,' he explained slowly and carefully so that MAP couldn't possibly misunderstand any portion of what he was trying very hard tocommunicate to an obviously very stupid young boy who wouldn't listen to the common sense he was trying to impart, 'things have to be done properly in the right place at the right time, when you're a lot older you'll know what I mean, I promise.'

 

 'You mean when I've learned to fly an aeroplane that shoots rockets and drops bombs on people,I'll forget all about 'flying for fun'?'

 

 'Exactly,' said his father, 'you're not as thick as I'd previously thought.'

 

'Just eat your supper,' said MAP's mother, 'and don't listen to your father, he's just talking a lot of rubbish,' she laughed in a brittle tinkling broken glass sort of way and began to cry silently into her plate,her shoulders shaking up and down as if she was plugged into the mains somewhere.

 

 'Please may I leave the table?' MAPmuttered in a robotic droning styleheemployed for occasions that required polite formality.

 

 'No,you'll sit there until you've eaten everything on your plate - and your plate,' said his father, a shadow on his eye.

 

 'But there's only grease and a chicken bone from a drumstick.'

 

 'Oh,' said his father and - smiled.

 

  Two hourse leater, MAP having, with the help of a pair of pliers thoughtfully provided by his father fromthe tool shed, crushed and masticated the bone tissue of the deceased fowl after using the powdered remains to mop up the grease on his plate first, went for a 'walk' on the 'green',the stretch of verdure outside theirs and those of the other adjacent residences.Remembering how,the previous day,there'd been a thunderstorm and some lightning,together with a curious explosion of orange light, 'ball lightning' his father had grufflyinterpreted without having seen it,accompanying the display in the direction of a ruined structure resembling one of Blake's 'Satanic Mills' standing in a field at the back of some houses near where he lived,MAP toddledoff that way,for some reason his thoughts turning to images from the Vedas,sanskrit texts dealing with strange flying machines in the heavens upon which the gods Vishnu, Krishna and Arjuna rode -and fought (a precocious kid,ain't he?-ed.)

 

 He'd been standing atthe edge of the verdant swathe,just about the limit of his venturesomeness at this point,when a groupof oddly attired, far-too-shortbecause they were only slightly taller than himself,'people',had appeared, walking around both aimlessly and purposefully,asif looking for something they didn't want anyone else to know they were looking for.

 

 'It's over there,' MAP said, pointing off in the direction of the ruined red-brick shell.

 

 'Drlusherphd,' said one of the throng,fiddling around with something at its waist, then 'Becdipbaphdtesolcert...what did you say?' the strange visitant finally enunciated in perfect English.

 

 'What you're looking for is that way,' MAP pointed again.

 

 Two of the young women with unusual hair styles and round caps that made it even more unusual,and wearing silver spandex jump suits before silver spandex jumpsuits had been invented, smiled  together secretively, made some unusual movements with their hands and fingers that were in perfect harmony with their unusualness, took a few paces forward, stood in readiness,one leg thrust forward and bent slightly at the knee, and waited, still fixedly smiling.

 

 'Thanks,' said the spokesman in the two-piece green and black leotard with black hair and shiny black boots, the box on his belt and ear muffs that seemed to be making a lot of barely discernible noise, 'want to come with us?'

 

 'Where to?'

 

 'He's too young,' said another 'man' with what looked like a blue romper suit and very blue eyes to match.

 

 'We have to go,' said one of the fixed-smile and bent-knee girls,  'now!'

 

 'I don't think I'm allowed that far,' MAP had told them,'I can't go further than the green.

 

 'Thanks for your help,' said the 'leader', we'll try and send you something as a reward,if we find what we're looking for.'

 

 'Good luck,' said MAP and watched the curiously assorted bunch of ufonauts dash away towards what remained of the woolen industry in this part of North Yorkshire.

 

 Toddling back homewards,it suddenly occurred to him thatthe first creatures on God's Green Earth to show him any affectionate concern had been aliens.It would,he reflected, be better if he didn'tmention this to his father who'd probably announce an immediate curfew,accuse his son of abnormalities such as paedophilia (quite normalfor a two-yearold, no?- ed.), homsexuality and occultism,report him to whatever authorities could speedily be contacted, and join the local constabulary to become the infant's jailorwhile explaining gently but firmly that 'aliens and UFOs,' though doubtless interesting, 'should have little or no interest for a two-year old boy who couldn't yet walk properly let alone fly an aeroplane,nevermind flying saucers!' he'd scoff.

 

 'But I am a flying saucer...orsomething?'

 

 His father had looked athim searchingly.Not now you're not,' then 'BED!' he'd exploded firmlyand rather far from gently MAP had lateropined to his mother asshe sat on the edge of his bed with their dog Binkey.

 

 'He doesn't think you're  his,' said his mother sadly,'there was a mix up in the hospital when you were born and we thought we'd lost you, then a baby turned up somewhere and everyone supposed it was you - and, of course, it was - but nobody was really sure if it was mine,especially not after you began to develop snow white hair and pink eyes when bothof us had dark hair and brown eyes.'

 

 'Aren't they hazel?' MAP asked looking deeply into them.

 

 'Witch Hazelyou mean?' laughed his mother. 'No, I'm a Brownie to the Core.'

 

 'B-corps. I see,' MAP saw something she didn't,'so I'm a foundling?'

 

 'A changeling perhaps.'

 

 'What's that?'

 

 'In the tales the faeries often steal human babies and substitute one of their own,a changeling,' his mother hesitantly offered.

 

 'Why?' MAP wanted to know.

 

 'Curiosity, entertanment, experimental research, just to 'see what happens next',as a gift from the Magic Kingdom; who really knows?'

 

 'Couldn'tit be the other way round,' MAP wondered, 'a human child snatched away and taken into fairyland?'

 

 'Do I look like one of the faerie folk?' his mother laughed.

 

 'Well,if your personality had been disintegrated and destroyed so that you were just a vessel for your daemon essence that seeks to create the realm of faerie about you always, the benefits of which are appropriated by those who have made it their task to keep you unconscious of your special talents,then,yes you do!'

 

 'Oh, I see,' his mother's laughter tinkled merrily, 'you're so precocious, do you know anything about quantum psycho-physics?'

 

 'It hasn't been invented yet,has it?' MAP arched a two-yearold white-blonde eyebrow, absent-mindedlyruffling Kinkey's sleeky black coat.

 

 'Oh,sorry.I forgot,' she blinked, petted Bonkey's snout,and began to say in a sing-song kind of a way, 'I had a little nut tree and nothing would it bear but a silver nutmeg and a golden pear...'

 

 MAP was snoring before she got to the part about the daughters of King Pan visiting, but he'd heard it all before anyway, he told himself as, drifting into theta sleep, that deep-dream state in which 'the voice' sometimes spoke, he heard a different denouement to the nursery rhyme he was so familiar with, 'the King of Space's daughter came to love me, and climbed up to Heaven on my Ladder of the Sky Tree.'

 

 Next day MAP was at his post by the door playing with a Dinky car,waiting for the 'post E' and,hopefully,his 'gift'.Quicklybecoming bored with waitng, he made for the refrigerator at a fast crawl,sipping at the lip of the bottle without even sparing a single moment to contemplate the hygenic benefits of using a glass with a straw, and returned a few short minutes later to find, upon the hall carpet, the assorted envelopes that had, rather forcefully, it appeared, been catapulted a distance of several more feet than usual on account of that ancient malaise, 'postie petulance'.

 

 Sorting through the pile of bills, letters and nutritional ads for, amongst other things, Cherry Chews, featuring a pubescent girl - Cherry doubtless - chewing and with her legs spread wider than one would imagine was absolutely necessary if the only cherry on offer was that of the flavoursome gum; 'River Nylons',the attraction of which seemed to reside in their capacity to induce, judging by the scenic exotica surrounding stills of the product displays, the appearance of monolithic half-human, half-lioness sculptures and vast pyramid-shaped tombs, aligned in patterns that, apart from anything else, mirrored the constellation of Orion, the Hunter, sword, belt or, far more than likely, extremely large and potent penis dangling down between its starry legs in the shape of a peculiarly geometrical alignment of suns, represented here in Egypt, so it seemed from the aerial photographs inserted beside pictures of half-naked Cleopatra types pulling on stockings by a peculiarly geometrical alignement of vast pyramid-shaped tombs of ancient Pharaoh's (is this a fairy tale or a Pharaoh story - ed.); and hidden at the bottom of the pile next to his envelope, the one marked 'Special Gift for the white-haired blue-eyed two-year old at 156 D Nissan Road', a blurb for Super Sucko vaccuum cleaners,the housewifely model in black suspendered green River nylons and not much else, toying with the serpentine tubing in as lascivious and salacious way as it's possible to manage with a box on wheels that happens to have an elephant's trunk attachment looking a lot like a thingy.

 

 Tearing open the glowing envelope,apparently it was radioactive MAP later discovered, but not at life-threatening levels, 'just a touchof razzmatazz' one of his alien chums had told him at a virtualparty on Bubblegum Bimboid IX where, apart from himself and the alien that looked just like him and whose name turned out to be MAP as well, which wasn't an acronym at all, butits name, which was rather disappointing MAP had found himself feeling and promptly Christened it Mince and Potatoes on the strength of the sexual ambiguity of its ambulations - all the other guests present, excluding several other of his 'selves' familiar to himself fromother of its different time-periods and time-lines,being hologramsof famous people from allover the Galaxy,which was rather fun because MAP and himselves (MAP too or MAP II, III, IV...as it were),thanks to the miracle of 'living'  VR were able to bludgeon, fuck,abuse and misuse as many heads of state, tri-D stars, rock gods and goddesses, porn gods and goddesses, and in fact  gods and goddesses, as they wanted to, which was a lot I can tell you, before relaxing amongst the fucked and bludgeoned, abused and misused pseudo-bods, to partake of the caviar and cheese buffet, waited on by stainless steel heavy-duty LVR party 'droids and being engaged in conversation by the holograms of brilliant philosophers, raconteurs, comedians and comediennes, wits and rakes,literary lions, an existentialist from Lyons and a 'right cunt' from some godforsaken hole called Hull who turned out to be writng a book about some other bloke's book about a magicar that could take its owner into any part of any world that existed or could exist in fact or fiction simply by 'wishing it so'.

 

 Spreading the contents of the still-radiating envelope on the kitchen table MAP, unsure of exactly where the boundaries of this particular envelope lay,picked it up with a pair of sugar tongs and took it to the dustbin, which of course was designed for this very purpose, before returning to what he hoped would be a chain letter , that is, a chain-reaction letter, involvement with which might, as it were, 'blow up in his face' like that woman in Utah who'd been assured that, if she wrote a similar letter as the one she'd just read and sent it on to a close friend or neighbour, she was certain to receive six million dollars, and she'd been woken up in the early hours of a wet Wednesday in Salt Lake City by a lot of young men in dark suits and very bright teeth demanding that she hand over the six million dollars she owed them and flourishing a rather soiled and rumpled  envelope addressed to Mr.D. Ozymandies.

 

 'Thank God this is only a chain-reacting letter,' MAP said and began to peruse its contents.

 

 It was an instruction manual, in pictures, a handsome masculine figure with 'hair like spun gold' demonstrating a series of bodily poses, each of which constituted a step on what, judging from the manual's cover title was the SkyTree Ladder,all you had to do, for example, if you wanted to enter one of the dimensions or 'planes of existence' on offer, as it were, was stand on one leg holding your foot.It seemed simple enough, so why not try it? MAP stood on one leg, tottered, lifted his foot, held it, and toppled over with a sickening crunch as the doorbell played out its predetermined jingle: London Bridge is Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down; London Bridge is Falling Down, My Fairy Angel.

 

 'Shouldn't thatbe 'My Fair Lady?' MAP queried,rubbing his knee hard and glowering at the shadowy figure behind the frosting of the door's glass panel.

 London Bridge is Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down, London Bridge is Falling Down, My Fair Lady went the chime.

 

 'Good,' said MAP who'd seen Pygmalion on teevee, thought Rex Harrison a harmless old coot, had fallen in love with Audrey Hepburn instantaneously along with a generation of movie-goers who'd seen it at the cinemas several years before,and didn't give two hoots about London Bridge - or any other bridge for that matter,with the exception of the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard and Jimi Hendrix's he hastily reminded himself whilst reminding himself to remind his author not to be so hasty with regard to future pronouncements upon the subject of what he 'didn't care a fig' for.

 

 'Door's open,' he bawled at the top of his lungs, 'just push.'

 

 'Hi!' said a female-sounding voice, 'I'm a fig meant by your imagination.'

 

 'Sorry?' MAP kicked the door shut again with his be-bootied foot,it taking five or six kicks fromhis infant feet 'fore the apparition,taking pity on the aggressive 'tyke' carefully closed the door properly using handle and wrist in conjunction with those muscular and mechanical movements required by 'door handle' specialists everywhere.

 

 'I'm a Fairy Angel, you called?'

 

 'Maybe,' MAP admitted playing the door chime.

 

 'Very...repetitive...shouldn't that be Stamford Bridge?'

 

 'You mean the one defended by that berserker withthe battle-axe who turned out to be fromthe far future that was actuallyin the past that was always present?'

 

 'Yes, that's the one.'

 

 'Never heard of it,' MAP told her, 'and it wasn't my fault anyway, I'd just been in a very trying encounter with an Anubian on Mars involving an Eye of Set,an Eye of Horus, an idol in the form of a scarab beetle wearing the double-crown of the Pharaohs,but you can read all about it in Mythopoea: A Further Adventure of MAP. Anything else?'

 

 'I'm here to grant you a wish.'

 

 'One?'

 

 'Yes.'

 

 'Okay.I wish for everything I could everpossibly want when I want it -okay?'

 

 'Sounds good to me.'

 

 'Fine.Thanks. Do you want to piss off now or what?'

 

 'Could I have some ambrosia nectar from the fridge, please?'

 

 'Absolutely, anything for a pal,' MAP assured her, toddling and tottering off in the direction of the kitchen.

 

 'You're very precocious,' observed the Fairy Angel,sipping through a straw from a glass on the table full of amber fluid.

 

 'Yes,' said MAP,drawing on a Marlboro cigarette clenched inhis little fat fist,'aren't I?' And did you know that the Marlboro cigarette pack has a hidden meaning, the white part of the design symbolizing the hood as worn by Ku Klux Klan wizards, and the red representing the bloodshed, an indication of the lengths to which they are prepared to go in the securing of their white-supremacist goals, the border between red and white forming the letter 'K', the eleventh letter of the alphabet, which is also a number associated with the devil?'

 

 'No, I didn't know that,' admitted the Fairy Angel, and I didn't want to either,' she smiled.

 

 'What's your name?' MAP asked her.

 

 'Eden.'

 

 'Not very Angel-ish.'

 

 'I have a flaming sword at home,you can see it if you'd like.'

 

 'Another day,' MAP yawned, 'Eden Angel, you say?'

 

 'It's a living.'

 

 'I suppose so,' MAP tried furrowing his brow, but the effort was beyond his two-year old's capacities, 'what do you do?'

 

 'I'm 'on call' most of the time, which means I'm part of a Rabid Response team.'

 

 'Responding to what?'

 

 'You in this case, didn't you kane the sign of the triangle?'

 

 'You mean this?' MAP stood on one leg once more and held his foot.

 

 'Taht's it, in Fairydom that means 'Tree Angel', the 'fairy', as it were, on the Christmas tree, a symbol of that Knowledge Beyond Good and Evil from which Eve (tempted by the serpent, that is, the devil or the fallen archangel Lucifer who, rebelling against God and cast out from Heaven, became Satan, the EvilOne) ate the apple and tempting Adam to do the same,were both expelled from Paradise, that is, Eden,an Angel with a 'Flaming Sword' -me - set to Guard the Garden Gates and prevent the return of Man until Christ should redeeem you all.'

 

 'But isn't all that just bunk?'

 

 'It's a myth, of course,but the meaning is plain.'

 

 'Is it?'  MAP didn't think so, and neither do we - yet.

 

 'The book you have, The Sky Tree Ladder, is about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Christ's Tree, the Christmas Tree, is the Tree of Life, the Sky Tree Ladder, a Jacob's Ladder if you like which you can use, if you folow the instructions, to climb up to Heaven,and I'm the Ferry Angel, the Guardian of Heaven or Paradise which, as 'Christ has died for your sins on the cross to redeem you from your sins,' can ferry you across the ocean of sky to Heaven.

 

 'Great! Let's go!'

 

 'Okay, but bring that instruction book, it's difficult to remember some of the figural hieroglyphics, and of course you're too young to do the sex ones, but we'll see how far we can go.'

 

 'Can we go to Uranus?' MAP leered.

 

 'Sure, and we can go to Ouranus if you want too,' the Ferry Angel laughed, 'but not for a long time yet - you're too young for that now.'

 

 'How do we get from here to - anywhere' MAP demanded

 

 'We don't really move at all,' the Angel told him, 'Heaven is on Earth if we know how to get there,all we have to do is tell it to come to us, 'Knock and Ye Shall Enter', as it says in the Bible, and it will appear before us,and the different figural hieroglyphics are the keys to the door, it's all quite easy really, you just have to know what you will find behind the 'door' into which you put each 'key' and what to do wiith what you discover inside, and I'll explain that to you as we go along. Ready?'

 

 'As ready as I'll ever be,' MAP decided decisively, 'I often wondered why my father tells me to use my 'nut' and points at my head; I thought he meant my brain, which looks a lot like a walnut in all the pictures I have in my Encyclopedia Galactica but he must have meant my imagination, which produced you, a fig-ment or mental figure, a psychopomp or female 'spirit guide', the anima of Jungian psychology, or, in Egyptian mythology, the Sky goddess Nut who will ferry me across the oceans of time-and-space to Avalon, the faery Isles, the Pharaoh Isles (aren't they somewhere near the Orc Knees? - ed.), the Land of the Blessed...'

 

 'My but you are precocious, aren't you?' marvelled the Ferry Angel, 'let's have a quick flip through the pages of that book and see what we can see...hmmmm?'

 

  'Okay,' MAP flipped through the leavesof the tome that was fullof ancient lore and power,' but all the pictures are exactly the same,' he cried, 'there are six-hundred-and-sixty-six pictures of a man, standing on one leg and holding his foot - it's a swizz!' he bitterly complained.

 

 'But what is he wearing?' asked the Angle Angel.

 

 'Different period costumes from all the different eras and epochs from the far past that is in the further future, that is, 'present continuous' in the Grammar School books. Who is he anyway?'

 

 'Robin Le Sly,otherwise known as Robin the Fox, Robin Füchs, Robin Fucks, 'Robin of Locksley', the keeper of the 'ley lines', Robin L.A. 'Goldie' Locks, the Angels' 'Golden Gate', Robin Slay Look, slayer of Loki the 'Evil Eye', Robin Luck's lay, Dame Fortune's Bawdy Baladeer, the One with the Magic Penis, 'Cock' Robin.'

 

 'Wasn't Robin of Locksley also known as Robin Hood?'

 

 'Robin 'ood actually, which means Robin of the 'rood' rather than 'wood', which doesn't mean 'rude', though he was very earthy in his sexual habits, but road or way, his name meaning 'he who knows and keeps the way'. The key, as it were, to Sherwood, which means sure 'rood', 'road' or route, sure path, the Sherpa path perhaps, the path of certainty certainly, the certain path or, perhaps a certain path, which only he knows, and which he shows us, in this book, how to use or be users of. The world, if you like, is like a big computer and ley lines are like invisible computer cables which, if you stand on one leg and hold your foot, so making an angle, the power of the ley lines or the world's computer cabling system, connects to you and you can access its secret ways; there are icons too, of course, just like in a computer programme, all you have to do if you see an aspect of one of the worlds on offer in the world-as-computer is 'make a triangle',that is, 'click on an icon' which gives you access to particular dimensions or aspects of the One World That Contains All.'

 

 'So his real name  should be Robin User?'

 

 'Oh,sure!'

 

 'O' Shea?'

 

 'Oh,really?'

 

 'No, O' Reilly,' MAP 'made an angle' and the Angel, taking him by the hand, opened the door, walked down the path to the garden gate and guided MAP through.'

 

 'Where to? he asked.

 

 'You can't go further than the 'garden', can you O' Shea?'

 

 'Not yet. I'm a leprachaun now I suppose?' he giggled.

 

 'So, where's you're pot of gold little man?'

 

 'It's sure to be in the green somewhere, begorrah and bejesus, at the end of the Rainbow concert featuring Richie Blackmore's solo from the track 'Down To Earth' on the album Down To Earth - the best guitarist in the world, probably (apart from Jape Age - ed. [don't forget Bert weed-on - author] ).'

 

 'That would make a terricfic advertising slogan for lager.' Fairy Angel positively shone with beatific beatitude.

 

 'Probably,' agreed MAP, 'so where's my crock of gold, then, Angle Angel?'

 

 'Why don't you try standing on one leg and holding onto your foot?' she suggested (I'm still not quite clear about who pissed on Bert - and why? - author).

 

 'Okay.'

 

 'Feel anything?'

 

 'My pee-pee tingles a bit.'

 

 'Walk about a bit then and tell me when it tingles the most,' she advised.

 

 MAP did so and saw that, right at the mid point of the green, his pee-pee got all warm and tingly; he took it out to show her.

 

 'What do you think?' he displayed himself.

 

 'Your Cock Robin?'

 

 'Yes.'

 

 'You sure?'

 

 'Of course.'

 

 'Of course you are (U.R.? - ed.) Well, we'd better start digging,' said the Angel, flushing slightly and turning away in order to do something with her unmentionables.

 

 Half an hour later,asmallish section of turf having been removed and laid carefully aside for replacing later on,a quite biggish mound of earth having slowly developed beside it, the Angel's finely tuned ears detected a new sound in the scrabbling of MAP's tiny fingers at the bottom of the hole in which the precious infant was now crouched, a scratching,scraping and - screeching! As of fingernails raking across a blackboard, and the baby hercules heaved and hurled, a metal box bouncing sullenly at the feet of the lazy thing.

 

 What'sin it?' she wondered.

 

 'Why don't you look see? puffed MAP, 'it won't be too tiring,' he panted, glaring up at her, admittedly, incredibly decorative legs and...other things, 'it's bounced open anyway,' he indicated the busted remains of the rusty lock, heaving himself out of his 'grave' predicament and, resurrected, as it were, stooped to examine its contents.

 

 'It's a clown's red nose.'

 

 'Um,' MAP reached down, squeezed the sides to make the slit in the back of the round plastic bulb bigger and, sticking his own hooter into it, letgo, the clown's tool now firmly attached in the center of his disappointed face, 'I don't think that's funny,' he murmured.

 

 'Yes it is,' the Angel disagreed, standing on one leg, holding onto her foot, and pointing at her knee, 'see this?' It's my fun-knee. You can have all the fun you want from now on, I promise.'

 

 'Okay,' said MAP,standing on one leg, holding onto his foot, sticking two fingers under the Angel's amazingly pretty nose,then pointing with his index finger at the still warmly tingling pee-pee in his unmentionables, 'I shall!' - and the Angelknelt down begore Him.

 

* The Sky goddess Nut is the mother of the gods in Egyptian mythology

 

Castration Complex

 

MAP had lived long enough with the people of Ourobouros to learn the language; but not long enough to see their faults writ large, which meant that he still felt liking for them. Heknew he wouldn't approve of what they would, thanks to him, soon become.His role had, he realized now, been that of the Tempter. However, hehad also seen how, despite all mythological statements to the contrary, the Serpent had, in a way which defied belief, effectively been the garden. In short, Tempter and Serpent were, in teleological terms, antitheses.Consequently, in unconsciously playing the role of Satan, MAP had achieved what no self-respecting time-traveller ever sought:a place in the history of human evolution. He smiled wryly as he thought of the 'pivotal' role he had played, the impulse to label himself 'seminal' had, he reflected, been strong. Freud would have made much of it and, not surprisingly, his mind's 'censor' had done what the good doctor would have expected.

 

 The sound of the man coming through the trees was drawing closer now.He who had committed the crime would have been sentenced and, because the guilt was in some part his to share, MAP had decided that he must stay until it was all over. Moreover, he knew that, although the stains on the block of stone which stood in the centre of the clearing were real enough, they  were old. The stone was, in fact, rarely used. He would not be witness to a bloody sacrifice - that would come later. This was, rather, a place of punishment.Those who used it believed in taking an 'eye for an eye', but this most recent case had set a legal precedent.The offender had been found  guilty of the 'new' crime of - MAP found himself grimacing at the term - 'manslaughter'. He couldn't decide whether the fate which awaited the criminal was 'worse than death' or not. Only time would tell: indeed, time had told, but the full unfolding of the sequence of events which MAP had set in motion now belonged to futurity, the search for an antidote to the troubles of his own time paling into insignificance beside the subtle machinations of fate.

 

 The decision to linger, however, wasn't entirely due to MAP's newly acute sense of responsibility. He knew that, if he didn't see it, he wouldn't believe it and, more importantly, he wouldn't be able to convince anyone else. The human race must be prepared for the evolutionary shift which, having seen how the great wheel turned, he now knew was coming. As he stood there in the shadows cast by the great ferns, waiting for the blow from the stone axe which must fall if a new biological epoch was to dawn, his mind drifted back to the scene in the laboratory which had confirmed for him that what his imagination had told him was true was the truth.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 He had, in an attempt to appear nonchalant, forced himself to loll against a lab bench: 'So what doyou think Rob? Does the theory hold water? Is the human race doomed? Are we dying out like the dinosaurs, or what? His friend's shrug of indifference hadn't been entirely forced; his stake in the future of humanity was, after all, limited; 'Your 'theory' - as you like to  cal lit - is sheer  speculation and, unless you can persuade me otherwise, that's how it'll stay.' His sigh, however, had been one of admission: 'Unfortunately these samples do confirm that, even since the early nineteen-nineties, the average male sperm count is down by fifty per cent.' MAP's face had grown a rueful smile. It had grown bigger - and less apologetic - as his hypothesis was confirmed in another area too. 'It  seems,' Rob hadn't batted an eye, 'that the average sizeof the female clitoris has, as you have anticipated...' MAP's smile had transformed itself into laughter; partly, it must be admitted, because of that revulsion toward female genitalia which he knew his friend possessed, but mainly because the evidence had, despite Rob's scepticism, tended to support his thesis. 'Look,' Rob had said, 'if you're so convinced of your own infallibility,' the glare he hurled would have removed, if MAP had had them, any doubts about his friend's innate masculinity, 'why not forget you're a scientist and we can dispense with the donkey work.You can just wallow in your own sense of self-worth and I can ignore the necessity of proving,' the mask habitually worn by his friend had slipped for an instant to reveal the painful ambiguity of the feelings which lay beneath, 'or disproving your 'theory'.'

 

 They had gone over the biological evidence again, but by now it was clear even to the man in the street that twenty-first century woman was becoming more aggressively masculine than the opponents of her feminist ancestors had ever dreamed. Rape, at least by men, was now to be found only in historical fiction. No man in his right mind would have considered this an option today - the castration laws had seen to that. But that wasn't the only deterrent. Often the girls-only teen gangs wouldn't wait for a court judgement. Sometimes it wasn't even necessary for a man to behave violently: if they didn't like the way you walked or the lookyou gave them, or even the 'vibes' they picked up (whether you were actually conscious of giving them out was immaterial), your manhood was liable to be mangled ('mangirlling' they called it); usually psychologically, but often, and this was rapidly becoming the norm, physically too. The consequences had  been twofold. Society was more peaceful, indeed, war was, at least in the 'liberated' West, an anachronism. On the other hand, Western woman's dominance had resulted in a rather subtle emasculation of her menfolk. It seemed that violence - albeit subliminal - was, for the male of the species, part and parcel of the sexual act. Domestication had meant not only a reduction in his sperm count, and therefore a levelling off of population which many had interpreted as 'nature's way' of ensuring that humanity didn't develop into 'planet cancer', but an antipathy toward the sexual act itself which looked like becoming a  permanent socio-cultural phenomenon.

 

 Men had reacted by turning to each other for support and consolation; much in the way that women of the twentieth-century had formed 'sisterhoods'. The parallels with the feminist extremists were also evident. Homosexuality, since the unexpected disappearanceof the AIDS virus in the early years of the century, was considered  an 'option' for radical, thatis, 'normal' or heterosexual but, and this was the rub, 'political', members of the 'brotherhoods'. As with the early lesbian feminists, it was considered politically correct for men to assert their solidarity by choosing a sexual orientation which negated the role of the 'other' sex. Perhaps it wasn't nature's way of showing her disapproval, but noone ever suggested that anal sex was a 'fruitful' mode of intercourse, and the sperm count dropped even further. This, then, was the problem, and the Bureau of World Science had brought in MAP, one of the few male genetic archaeologists that were left in the higher institutes (it was rumoured that, due to fears about possible infiltration from female supremacists, women were not even considered for this project), to solve it. His decision to co-opt Rob Lush had met with a few raised eyebrows, not only because Rob was a 'political radical', that is, homosexual by choice, but because of his field of expertise - time-travel.

 

 There was a familiar sound in the corridor, a sharp tap-tapping of high heels. In past eras the sound would havesent a thrill of sexual adrenalin coursing through a man's body.These days the thrill was more likely to be one of fear. MAP knew that, if he didn't force himself to (no pun intended) stand up straight in the presence  of a woman, he would unconsciously adopt the position which best afforded him a chance of protecting his testicles. Not that women were given to launching unprovoked kicks at a man's scrotum; the wounds they inflicted were largely psychical, but the end product was the same - unmanning.

 

 The footsteps ceased at the front door and a figure could be seen outlined through the frosted glass panel. The handle turned and the woman walked in.Rob disappeared behind a wall of jars and tubes; he could be heard at intervals, shuffling about, running water into sinks, generally keeping himself out of harm's way. MAP, on the other hand, seemed merely to adjus this loose stance by the bench in order to confront his uninvited guest:'Pat Horner! What brings you to this neck of the woods?' He cursed himself silently; this false bonhomie was, he knew, acceptable in male company, but women saw through it immediately.Just what it was they saw he'd never been able to deduce. Perhaps it was just female psychology; you know, the idea that there must be something you're trying to conceal from'mother', so why not accept your guilt? Anyway, was it his fault his genitals always tingled in the presence of the opposite sex? Damn it! He did his best not to be come aroused, but that fabled intuition of theirs detected the slightest disturbance in a man's aura. His grandfather had told him how, in the old days, women had used  their sensitivity to find a bedmate, but that was during the period of what came to be called the Sexual Prevolution, a period of 'free love' which, all the experts now agreed, had been a contributing factor to the spread of AIDS in the last century, and which had produced in the women of that time an unhealthy fear of what lay coiled inside a man's trousers, a fear that led to unconscious hatred; and finally to outright hostility - like now.

 

 MAP experienced the familiar feeling of a woman's gaze passing through him to settle on what, in the face of ever-deteriorating relations between the sexes, had become that ever-guilty and ever-persecuted worm which was to be found squirming ineffectually at the core of every man's being. He noted the slick black body sheathe, the thigh high white boots, the peaked leather cap, all fetishistic objects which, in another time and place, would have tickled a man's erotic fancy. Now, however, they inspired fear in the guilty (and who, faced with the 'crime' of owning a penis, wasn't guilty) and obeisance (genuine grovelling, that is, not as part of some twisted form of Eros worship) in those who had lost the vestiges of their pride in being masculine.

 

 'How's the project coming?' Was it MAP's imagination, or did he detect a sexual emphasis in the words project and coming? Was she conscious of how, just by running her tongue along her teeth like that, she could make a man's trouser snake go rigid with pleasure? Already he felt it swelling up down there; getting itself good and ready; informing him - and her - that whenever...' Pat cleared her throat peremptorily, jerking him back from the fantasy. Big Boy down there, in spite of assurances of its invincibility, curled up like a slug with salt on its tail. If this goes on much longer, the thought flashed through MAP's mind prophetically, it'll dig itself a hole and crawl in. He frowned. There was something in that; if he could just... Pat moved past him; the clicking of her heels making it impossible to concentrate: it was as if the coils of his cerebrum were being dragged about the floor like loops of dead spaghetti. 'Where's your faggot? Do I frighten him?' she stared mockingly at his crotch. MAP resisted the impulse to change his stance and ease his discomfort: it worked! Was that a flicker of embarassment he saw flit across her features? Apparently not, he observed, as her stare travelled slowly up his torso to rest challengingly at a point just in front of his eyes. He hadn't, he decided, got time for this: 'Rob's busy.He's been working hard.' Again he kicked himself mentally. 'What did you say? Wanking hard? I didn't know they could get hard anymore. Did you?' He wasn't going to fall for that one: 'Did I what?' Again she dropped her eyes to mock his manhood: 'Look Pat,' again he was cut off. 'Oh,' she laughed, 'I am. I am.' He cursed himself inwardly: 'What is it that you want? We're very busy here and...' Once again she overrode him: 'I told you, we're interested. What have you found out?' God preserve us from right wing lesbians, he fumed silently. He would have liked to tell her toshove it, or something of the sort which she shouldn't interpret as a sexual innuendo and turn against him; but it  was part of the conditions of his contract - thanks to women's pressure groups - that the two projects co-operate. Needless to say, so far the 'co-operation' had been entirely one way: 'It seems,' he paused mockingly; waiting for the interruption which, because this time it was important for her to listen to what he had to say, wasn't forthcoming, 'that my theory was right. Men are becoming sterile, while women are beginning to develop certain peculiarly masculine traits.' 'You mean we're growing cocks?' Clearly she wasn't going to make this easy for him: 'It isn't that simple,but...' 'I've got some news for you brother,' this time she chose to interrupt him with an insult to boot.This was going too far: 'But...' 'But nothing,' suddenly MAP realized that what she had to impart must not only be  dynamite but shattering in its finality; they'd never told him anything before this, 'you remember that clit born fifteen years ago in Rumania?' She paused while MAP nodded his assent: 'Well, that clit can not only fertilize herself, she can fuck too. You know what that means?' He gave a low involuntary whistle.'That's right dickbrain.You're obsolete.The board have decided to shut down your half of the project and go with us. The human race will continue, but on our terms.' Without waiting for any further response she turned on her heel and headed past him through the open door; then, as if remembering some unfinished business, she sang out mock sweetly: 'Bye bye Rob.' MAP wasn't too stunned to know what that meant!

 

 They had both been worried about the human race's dying out, but Rob wasn't exactly a family man; he didn't have a vested interest. MAP wasn't married either, but he liked kids and it was an 'option' for him, which meant he wanted a future not only for men and women but for men with women. Moreover, Pat's threat suggested that, although there might be a role for men like him, if her kind wasin control, it would be a future without 'queers' - voluntary or otherwise. Extermination? Were they already making lists? The brotherhoods weren't secret organizations; so far they hadn't had to be, but now? This, MAP couldn't help thinking, ought to provide Rob with the incentive he had seemed to lack. But there was another thought buzzing around in his head which wouldn't let up until he'd examined it. He struggled to think; then, as if their thoughts had been running along similar paths, Rob appeared from behind a wall of instrumentation: 'Another of their terms must have been that, if the WSB didn't want them to take their findings to the separatists, this concern would have to be shut down due to its being 'no longer viable'. MAP snapped his fingers: 'Of course. That's it!' 'But,' he spluttered in realization, 'that's ridiculous! Now that we know what the problem is we can do something about it. Where's that artefact?' Rob reached into a pocket of his lab coat: 'Here.' He tossed it across. MAP looked at the circle of stone he now held in the palm of his hand: 'This is the oldest example you could find?' Rob nodded: 'It's the oldest there is. Nobody knows how old. What I do know is that, if we link it up to the machine, I can send you back to when it was made.' MAP looked at the image; a dragon with its tail in its mouth: 'Can you do it now?' Rob frowned: 'Ten minutes ago I would have told you it couldn't be set up for a week, but now...' Once more Rob shrugged, but the gesture was no longer indifferent. As if to underline its affirmation, he took the stone circlet from his friend, walked across to the wall of instruments, opened a panel, and placed it inside: 'Appropriate.' 'Oh,' MAP's curiosity was unfeigned; anything Rob thought interesting was, 'why's that?' 'The self-devouring serpent has, since its inception, been associated with time-travel. Have you ever heard the story of the man who went back to find out whether or not Jesus actually existed? He asked about Him everywhere, even quoted scripture; recounting the story of His life until, finally, Pontius Pilate had him crucified as a  dissident. Turns out he was Jesus all along. A time loop.' He flicked a switch: 'So watch yourself. Ready?' MAP was taken aback: 'That's it? Just like that?' Ron grinned: 'It's been ready for weeks.The brotherhoods have been keeping tabs on Pat and her bunch.' He adopted a pained expression:'Not that I ever needed an incentive.' MAP laughed: 'Okay, let's go.' He picked up what he always thoughtof as his 'bag of tricks' and stepped forward; but, as he slid into the booth, he frowned: 'Haven't we forgotten something?' Rob produced what looked like a vitamin pill: 'Swallow this. When you want to come back all you have to do is think it. You don't even have to return to this room. Or this country.You can materialize in the Pope's bedroom if you like. Not that I'd advise it.She might be busy with one of her novices.' Their laughter smothered what, in less fateful circumstances, might have been the tell-tale sounds of multiple spiked heels beating a tatoo to the door of the lab.So it was with the element of surprise when, with Pat at their head, an all-female security squad marched in: 'That one,' she pointed towards Rob, 'I denounce him as a member of the brotherhood. Don't move Lush. That,' she gave him the finger, 'is a definite nono.' Rob shrugged but, asMAP now knew, he only seemed indifferent. He had tried to shout out, to stop him before it was too late, but suddenly it was too late. For a moment the guards were fooled and had relaxed their stance, which was what, in feigning resignation, Rob had been counting on. He had lunged forward, slapping a couple of switches with one hand, pressing a button with the other; then the laser bolts tore into him. MAP's final impression of the world he left behind had been Rob's blood-smeared hand sliding down the glass panel of the booth; his thumb raised in what, MAP now felt, was an ironically camp salute.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 It hadn't been difficult making contact. Actually, he hadn't even had to start looking; they found him. There had been none of the posturing and mock threats he had anticipated from primitives faced with the shock of the new. Although he was clearly the strangest stranger they had ever encountered, he was clearly alone, and consequently not considered to be dangerous. He presumed that scouts would have been sent out to locate other members of his - tribe? But, for obvious reasons, he hadn't worried about that. They had, he supposed, taken him prisoner or, as it seemed in hindsight, into protective custody. He still hadn't bothered to discover much about the local fauna; though he now knew that some of it was both voracious and, there was no simpler way to put it, big! Hence the caution with which his 'captors' had led him back to the caves in which they lived.

 

 They had found him almost instantaneously, he had wondered if the suddenness of his arrival had caused some sort of dislocation in the surrounding area; some of the foliage had apparently been singed, and there was a silence which, after experiencing the more commonplace shrieks and bellows that usually accompanied a stroll in the jungle, he had later decided was the natural response to a loud noise. Rob would have to - damn! His friend's sacrifice had loomed fresh in his mind, even though, paradoxically, he hadn't yet made it! That thought, although it seemed to him that it shouldn't have madeany difference, did; he was quite cheerful when, shortly afterwards, he had seen shapes flitting toand fro amidst the giant ferns which, at first, he had taken for trees. However, after a brief survey of the faces that peered out at him from the shadows, he had perceived his error. Later inspection had revealed that, due to some trick of the light, the creatures had seemed more reptilian than they actually were, but, for MAP, it had meant only one thing: the stone circlet was an artifact of the period known as the Mesozoic, which was of course impossible - was being the operative word.

 

 The caves were located halfway up the face of a cliff. MAP had been visibly relieved when it was made apparent to him by sign and gesture that he wasn't expected to get up there by muscle power alone. One of his few aquaintances emitted a sharp whistle and, it was evident they had been expected, because a serviceable rope ladder was immediately cast down. The individual who appeared to lead the group had gone first; demonstrating to MAP how to avoid slippping and breaking his neck, a courtesy for which his pupil felt he would be eternally grateful: heights made him dizzy.

 

 It must, MAP had conjectured, be an extraordinarily massive cave; judging by the size of the welcoming committee. He discovered later that, in fact, there was but one cave; those he had seen from the ground were essentially subsidiary entrances. There had, however, been little interest in him; he had soon realized that his companions were far more important to the community than he was; or rather what they had failed to bring with them would have been. The leader's apologetic open-handed stance told MAP all he needed to complete the picture. The group which had, as it were, 'trapped' him had been hunting for food, and his arrival had probably scared off whatever passed for game in these parts. The looks of contempt which he had received from many of the onlookers had tended to confirm this supposition. At least, MAP had thought, they didn't consider eating him! Unfortunately, after explanations had been sought and given, MAP had been promptly forgotten about. Apparently this had been the only reason for his being dragged along; to provide the hunters with an excuse for their failure to feed a hungry populace.He had supposed he ought to have been thankful that his problem wasn't how to overcome that hostility which strangers always seemed to encounter; instead he had had to cope with an almost total lack of interest.

 

 The first inkling of a potential breakthrough had come when, after sitting with his back to the cave mouth for much of the night, a figure had appeared beside him with a steaming bowl of lumpy fluid which it laid quickly at his feet before disappearing back into the darkness. MAP had eaten his fill; it hadn't been that unpleasant either, a bit like swallowing axle grease with bits of india rubber floating about in there to give you something to bite at. His stomach was satisfied though,which allowed his mind tosleep. When he awoke there was nothing else for it but to enter the cave and get on with what he had come here to do.He had his mini-lab; all he needed was a willing subject. He hadn't been able to detect anything unusual about his reluctant benefactors' physiology, apart from the reptilian cast to their features, but that was mainly because of the voluminosity of the garment with which they hid their nether regions.There could, he knew, be a very good reason for this, but he didn't want to get his hopes up too much.

 

 Another thing he hadn't been bothered with before, but which now seemed significant; all the specimens he had met with so far had been male: he could be sure about that because none of them had worn anything upon their upper bodies and, well, even he couldn't have missed what his grandfather had used to delight in describing as a woman's 'love bumps'.

 

 He rapidly discovered that there were no restrictions on his movements, apart from one, he was not allowed to enter the mouth of what, at first glance, seemed a small cave at the back of the cavern. However, from the amount of to-ing and fro-ing that went on, he quickly came to assume that only the mouth of this cave was tiny, inside, he had guessed, lay a cavern at least equal in magnitude to its parent.What went on in there it took him longer to learn. Direct enquiries were, until he began to master the language (by sitting, watching and listening; noone volunteered to teach him: what, the blank eyes they turned upon him seemed  to say silently,would be the point?), impractical; and, having achieved command of a few basic words, unfruitful. However, because of the continuing non-appearance of a female of the species and, more importantly, the absence of recognizably young children, he  had deduced that the cave within a cave was the place where the mothers of the tribe reared their young, but surely, he had put the question to himself, the women can't spend their entire lives in there?

 

 It wasn'tlong before his question had been answered. Every day at twilight his mysterious benefactor had continued to appear with food. Aware of the many dangerous taboos which lie in wait for the unheedy when in contact with fundamentally alien societies, MAP had refrained from tampering with this arrangement. One evening, however, becoming proud of his limited grasp of this incurious race's tongue, he had addressed his provider; asking why, when everyone else ignored him to the degree that he sometimes believed himself invisible, this one deemed him worth feeding? His speech had met with a startled glance; then the bowl had been hurriedly put down but, before the figure could make its escape, MAP had, he shuddered at the chance he'd taken, grabbed an arm.There had, he recalled now with some embarassment, been a brief struggle in which his hand had touched what he hadn't yet seen, a 'love bump'. Good God, he had nearly let go his bowl; this, then, was a female!

 

 Eventually they had  come to a sort of understanding. He would release her, and she promised not to run if he did. The disengagement proceeded to the satisfactoion of both parties and, after a few misunderstandings, his visitor had managed to put across the idea that he was to wait while she went to fetch a light. A short time had passed in which he'd envisioned a vengeful father or boyfriend emerging from the shadows to hurl him from the cliff, but she kept faith and had returned with a flaming torch which, set in a nearby crevice, cast sufficient illumination to enable each to see the other. It was, he mused, incredible how attractive she had seemed, uncannily so. One thing, as they say, had  led to another. He had been certain, although noone could have expected him to have known why, she was a virgin. At first she hadn't seemed to know what it was he wanted her to do; an ignorance he put down to either an inability to communicate his desire verbally or some natural reluctance in her due to fear or inexperience; perhaps there was even a taboo of which he was unaware; or,and the possibility only occurred to him later (Pat would have said it was typical of a man), perhaps she just didn't fancy him?

 

 Events had proved otherwise. When, by behaviour which, from his point of view, made it plain what he wanted, he had failed to make her understand, he had opted for drastic measures; unzipping his fly and taking hold of his member, he had placed her fingers firnmly around it and sat back: let's see, he had thought, what she makesof that! Her reaction had, however, been baffling; and not a little humiliating. She had laughed.For a moment he had feared she would become hysterical; then he had felt humiliated: was this savage ridiculing him? Fortunately, however, he quickly hit upon something of the truth; it was a laugh of incomprehension: she still didn't know what to do. This was going to be more trouble than it was worth! Oh well, in for a penny... He had signalled to her that she should take off her clothes, while getting rid of his own.They had stood for a moment looking curiously at one another as the shadows cast by the light from the flaming torch danced festively over their skin. Oddlyenough, he now saw, it was she who had reached for him; it seemed that instinct had taken over: she had, still gripping his tool, lain upon the ground, forcing him to his knees. He had, to her obvious amazement, parted her thighs and, as she strained to see what he was going to do next, forced his way into her. Her eyes had opened wide in astonishment and, as if further confirmation were necessary, brief pain; then he began to thrust, slowly at first to let her get the rhythm, then faster as he felt her body respond. He had begun to squeeze her breasts in time with the motion they were creating, and she had looked up in wonderment; then, as he watched, she lost focus, her back arched and she came: again and again her body shook until, excited by her uncontrollable fitsof ecstasy, he had squirted out his own joy.

 

 He hadn't known they were being watched, and nothing happened immediately thereafter to suggest that this was the case. If he had known...but that was just pissing in the wind. He'd done what he'd done, now he had to live with himself. It hadn't been long before he'd discovered the reason's for Lizzie's (he called her that, because though he was ashamed to admit it, he had thought of her as his 'lizard lover') laughter when he had first shown her his prize possession; although, if he had remembered why he was there in the first place, it would have been self-evident. His insight had come when, exploring a robbed Egyptian tomb, he'd come across an image carved into the stone of the burial chamber, a representation of the serpent Ourobouros. On the day he was granted admittance to the mysterious 'Chamber of Birth', he had known what that figure really represented. Darwin would have suffered apoplexy; Jung would have spoken of the archetype's power of trasformation: Freud, and subsequent events would  prove the correctness of - if not his theories - his methodology, would have said:'I told you so.' MAP had, to his great surprise, been invited to participate in a ritual; the essential detail of which he grasped straight away, almost as if he already knew it - which was so. The rest was, or so he had believed, irrelevant. He wondered how his hosts would react once they saw, like Lizzie, that he was incapable of performing in the way they expected.

 

 As it turned out, he needn't have worried. Once the ceremony (which, he gathered, took place during the time of the full moon) had gotten underway, noone paid him any attention. He was, however, able to watch the preparations of the other participants. All those present were, MAP hadn't needed to check, male. They had, he shivered in remembrance, proceeded to remove that article of clothing which, as he later found out, acted as both restrainer and protector. Anyone else, he was sure, would have passed out or gone mad. He had known what to  expect; but still, the reality was hard to accept. Unfettered, the object which passed for a penis among these worshippers of Ourobouros,sprang  erect. There would, of course, have been (apart from its outré context) nothing truly  uncanny about that, but these rods of flesh and, MAP had noted dazedly, pulsating blood and muscle, were at least two feet long! He had stared in fascination as, all around him, men had stroked and carressed these shafts before, bowing their heads, they had inserted the bulbous head into their mouths and begun to suck. Dante himself, MAP had mused, couldn't have imagined a weirder scene. It took about fifteen minutes: then,one after another, each great shaft went into spasm and shot its seed down the throat of him who had wielded it.There was a brief pause in which, he had supposed, everyone was given time to recuperate before returning; but, as men lay down all around him, it soon became clear that he would not be leaving the cave until the next day - if then.

 

 He had dreamt of a glittering, multi-faceted wheel of green and gold which, as it span, emitted sparks of white fire; then, gradually, it had slowed and he had seen what it was. This inner light show had been caused by the flashing scales of the self-devourer as it chased - and eternally gobbled - its own tail; but there was something more, something he had missed. He had awoken with the same sense of not having seen what he had been invited to look upon, and it was a sharper gaze that he had cast about him.. His surroundings had then come in for a much closer scrutiny; without paying much more than cursory attention, he had been aware that this inner chamber as a natural amphitheatre: his companions of the previous evening had, before indulging in their orgy of masturbation, seated themselves in rows about a shallow pit in the centre of the cavern. MAP had glanced around him to see what, if anything, the morning sun was going to offer in the way of entertainment. Most of the revellers had, he was pleased to register, already left; the rest were gathering by the pit. The one whom he had labelled 'leader' had, he recalled, proved to be so; him it was who, circling the pit, had given the signal for the rite to begin: that morning he had fumbled at his throat once more; then, raising the talisman which hung there, he had stared directly into MAP's face. His target had gotten the message and, reluctantly, had ventured down for an unavoidable tete-a-tete.

 

 It hadn't been altogether startling to find that it was the familiar carven image of Ourobouros which, hung about his summoner's neck, had been raised to catch his eye; it was, he had allowed the superstition to creep in, fate's messenger: but there had been no time for such philosophizing. Each man in the ring about the pit held an object in the crook of his arm; it looked, MAP hadn't been serious, like a leather egg: then he realized that that was exactly what it was -an egg! The dream image came back to him vividly; that was what he hadn't understood: the Ourobouros wasn't only the self-devourer but also the self-begetter. It all depended how you looked at it; if you saw it one way it seemed as if the serpent were devouring itself; but, looked at another way, it appeared as if it were giving birth to itself! Before he could analyse his discovery, their leader had brought out a stone knife and, pulling MAP toward him, had ripped open the front of his shirt, exposing his chest; then, bizarrely, he had placed his hands upon his victim's nipples and squeezed the flesh with which they were surrounded. MAP had quickly drawn back; holding the tattered remnants together with one hand, but that was the end  of it, with a snort of disgust the perpetrator of the assault pointed to the mouth of the cave and turned away.

 

 Lizzie had provided him with some illumination and, with what he had been able to deduce for himself, he thought he had gotten a pretty good picture of how things stood. He had, from his researches into the cult of the serpent, guessed that, in earlier epochs, the male penis had been much bigger; indeed, this was the reason he had come here, to gain knowledge which would allow him to restore the potencyof the men of his own period: his discovery that the people of Ourobouros were capable of self-fertilization had, therefore, added to an insurmountable complication. In genetic terms, it was improbable that, at such an evolutionary remove, there could be any likelihood that, using tissue samples from these specimens as a biological template, genetic engineers could restore penis power to the twenty-first century. He'd try to get the samples he needed, but he hadn't been sanguine about the outcome.

 

 He had learned from Lizzie that his inability to lay an egg had been the occasion for what, he had been amused to hear, had been a 'sexual' assault. There had, it appeared, been some doubt as to his masculine credentials;apparently they'd decided - to MAP's great relief - that he was sterile, which had meant he wouldn't have to go through that again. There remained but one question: if the 'men' of the tribe were self-sufficient in terms of the reproduction process,what was the point of women? Why did they exist? Lizzie had explained that, as he had guessed, they were used as 'mothers'; but that hadn't made evolutionary sense: until, that is, she'd informed him that, not only was he the first to make love with her, but all of the other women were still virgin. It seemed that, prior to his coming here, neither sex had known what the other was for. Apparently the women were seen by their counterparts as 'drones'. At  first they had  been killed outright ('nature's way' of weeding out the unviable); then, as the numbers born steadily increased, they had been granted citizenship - of a sort.

 

 That night it had all changed. Lizzie hadn't appeared and MAP had become worried; then, shortly before moonrise, he had heard the scream. He had known it was a death cry; he had known too that it was hers. By the time they found her she was dead; the culprit hadn't even tried to escape, and MAP had known why. The 'murderer' was naked, his 'weapon' limp, but still a foot or so in length. MAP knew then that someone had been watching as he and Lizzie had made love. This one must have wanted to see what all the fuss was about and, ever-willing to please, she'd agreed; but these beasties were just too damned big for a little girl like her: it must, MAP had considered, have  been pleasurable to contemplate but, in practice, the pain would have been excruciating. Her partner couldn't really be blamed for what had happened, likely as not he'd probably been too far gone to stop: this, it had to be remembered, had been his 'first time' too.

 

 So that was it; here he was, standing in the shadow of the great ferns, waiting for justice to be done. The guilty party now stood with his head bent forward over the punishment stone; the leader struck the necessary blow and, after a few brief phrases which, to MAP, were inaudible, the group left the scene. As he obtained the tissue specimen he had sought, once again the image of Ourobouros flashed through his brain. What further significance could it have that he'd missed? Then it came to him; the self-devourer and self-begetter was, looked at from yet another angle, the tail eater! If he had needed convincing, this did the trick; it wouldn't belong. MAP was sure now, before the procedure he had just witnessed became institutiionalized: it would be a long time, however, before circumcision denoted merely an excessive preoccupation with hygiene or an archaic religious bias. It had, he imagined, takes millennia for Woman to appear. How long, then, would it be before men were born who didn't need to be surgically 'adapted'?

 

                                                                                                *

 

 He stood by the monitor watching the 'bot-docs' working on Rob: it had been relatively simple - once he'd gotten the idea of thinking himself into the WSBs headquarters - to get the chief's permission for a spot of temporal manipulation. His armed medical squad had been able to wait while, in the next room along the corridor, Rob had sacrificed himself to send an earlier MAP back to meet and greet Mesozoic man. He'd gambled that Rob's brain would have remained intact and, as that had been so, they would be able to rebuild him. Pat, he grinned now at the memory of it, hadn't been pleased to see him; but then she hadn't known all the facts. When she'd calmed down, he'd told her how, thanks to the renewed importance of their joint projects, Authority would be taking no action against her faction. It would take, he felt sure, only a few days for the implications of what he had brought back to sink in.The great wheel was turning again for both men and women; it was MAP's hope that, this time, the transition could be effected without trauma.There would be many difficult phases to withstand; if he hadn't been able to forewarn them, he perceived that his half of the species would undoubtedly have gone mad during the retractile stage: he envisioned his own penis shrivelling up before, drawing his testicles after it, disappearing into his groin - no way you could cope with that without councilling! For a while the separatists would have what they wanted, at least until the male vagina had become functional; but Pat was helping now: she agreed that, although women would, for a while, be able to fertilize themselves with their newly grown penii, this was itself a transitional phase. Some had conjectured that evolution intended them to have cocks of their own to suck, but MAP didn't give that theory much credence. It might, he hoped, be nature's way of forcing the sexes back together; by reversing their sexual polarities. How would Rob and the 'brotherhoods' take it? God only knew. He gazed at the screen. Nice arse. Rob loved him; but did he love Rob enough? Love was, he shrugged, something to think about.

 

Deus Ex Machina

 

'It appears, MAP was saying, 'that the craft are of extraterrestrial origin.'

 

 Adamson had heard the rumours but - like everyone else involved with the excavation - he didn't believe that such a thing could be possible.The consensus was that it was all a hoax. His bark of laughter was, however, greeted with a blank stare.

 

 'I hope,' MAP spat each word with bullet-like accuracy, 'the Professor can continue to see the funny side.'

 

 Adamson revolved upon his swivel chair to locate the implied audience of more than one. When he'd entered, MAP'd been alone at his desk; now there were two other figures seated at the back of the room - a man and a woman.

 

 'The Bureau of Science', MAP didn't sound delighted, 'are here to see how you react to the news.'

 

 Adamson allowed the pause to lengthen.

 

 'I'd prefer,' MAP's voice was suddenly strident,'not to address my comments to the back of your neck!'

 

 Adamson obliged smilingly. 'I just don't know,' he camped, 'which way to turn. 'Not,' he added, that it makes any difference. If they don't stab me in the back - you will.

 

 This time it was MAP who cultivated silent hostility.

 

 'What  news?' Curiosity, Adamson often failed to remind himself, tended to produce dead cats. 'All I've heard so far is a lunatic tale of alien spacecraft.'

 'Not,' it was the woman who spoke, 'spacecraft.'

 

 Adamson span his chair round.'Not? What then?'

 

 'Temporal displacers.'

 

 She was, Adamson observed, very beautiful. He'd read somewhere that oriental women were supposed to be expert lovers. Yes, he lashed himself mentally, and he was black, which meant that MAP was a racist and a victim of penis envy. So much for stereotypes. What was it she'd said?

 

'Temporal?'

 

 'Time machines.' The man on her left seemed to think that was sufficient. Anyway, having delivered this nugget, he motioned for MAP to resume.

 'You claim,' again MAP waited for Adamson to revolve in his seat, 'to have discovered the oldest - the oldest - human remains. Through 'gene archaeology,' he coughed as if trying not  to physically reject Adamson's approach, 'you claim to have pinpointed the exact location in time and space where primates first became human.'

 

 The man in the shadows again drew himself up. 'As you know, we do not believe that the various inferior - ', he sneered pointedly, 'and superior races - are the descendants of a single breeding pair: that is a myth!' But at least we know who we are, thought Adamson, and wondered what the Dictaorship of the Evangelical White Christian Fundamentalists could possible have to do with all of this. 'Moreover,' the man-in-the-shadows glanced at a door in the wall to his left, 'alongside the skeletons of those you believe to be the original parents of the human race, a pair of devices were unearthed which, according to the experts,' he jerked his head angrily in the direction of the Bureau's representatives,'were manufactured by a civilization vastly superior to our own.'

 

 Ah! Adamson thought he knew the Dictatorship's racist views inside out, but xenophobia was something new. Space niggers! He cast his mind back to the day of the double discovery; first they'd found the bones; then, while the rest were at lunch, Jim McGuire had struck 'gold' with his metal detector. The only other person to see what'd been uncovered was MAP, and he'd ordered Jim  to seal the burial chamber - then promptly bundled him off in a helijet.

 'What makes  you think the devices are of alien manufacture? If, asyou claim, they're machines for travelling through time, aren't they likely to be products of our own future?'

 

 'We've thought of that,' it was the man from the Dictatorship again, 'but the control systems are designed to be operated by non-humans. However,' his voice took on a lighter note, 'if you can grow an extra arm in the middle of  your back...'

 

 'Funny ha ha.' Nevertheless, Adamson could visualise a similar creature; but that, he pushed the image away, was ridiculous.'Okay, granted that the time-travellers were non-human, how come we found their transportation? Surely they intended to go back to wherever it was they came from?'

 

 'The machinery is, so far as we are able to determine, virtually indestructible, and therefore still fully operational,' MAP confirmed.

 

 Evidently his part in the interview was ended. Adamson rotated his chair. 'Are the remains,' clearly MAP had decided that they were, 'non-human?'

 

 'No, there're certain oddities,' the shadowy man dismissed these with a shrug, 'but they're recognizably human.'

 

 'So?' Adamson frowned.'Either the aliens were killed before they could return,' which would explain the machines' presence in the tomb - spoils of battle, 'or they didn't want to return.'

 

 'That's what we want you and Miss Chang here,' the man indicated his companion, 'to investigate.'

 

 'But that's impossible.The only way to find out is to...' The shock of realization rendered him dumb for a moment. 'Oh.'

 

 'If we're going to be 'travelling' together,' the woman smiled, 'I think it'll be alright for you to call me Evelyn.'

 

 'Evelyn?' He wasn't curious; just dazed. But she wasn't to know that.

 

 'My father was a 'white devil'. You can't tell,' the smile was gone now, 'until you get up close.'

 

 Was she angry? Racism was, as the appointment of a Dictator to the Bureau of Science showed, still a potent force. If he'd inadvertently touched a raw nerve, he owed  her something. 'My name's Jesus. It's a common enough name in Brazil, but with some people it can be an additional source of,' already he felt her empathy, 'irritation?'

 

 She laughed.'Yes.There is much,' her gaze flicked past,'bigotry'.'

 

 Good.They understood each other.He'd be able to work with her. 'Why, to coin a cliché, us?'

 

 'Apparently,' her companion strode across to the door-in-the-wall, 'the alien craft were keyed to their owners' genetic code. It is believed that the two of you provide a close enough match.'

 

 Adamson suppressed his glee.No wonder this Dick'd been spitting fire.These superbeings would never be WASP's!

 

 'That,' the man from the Dictatorship produced a field nullifier, 'together with the high security clearance which you both merit...' He waved his magic wand at the door. 'Open Sesame!'

 

 

                                                                                                *

 

 Their would-be-steeds, though wheelless, bore a more-than-passing resemblance to pre-fusion Harley-Ds, invoking in them a brief but decisive nostalgia for that spirit of pioneering which the original chrome-and-steel 'hogs' were designed to evoke. However, when the Dictaorship's man began to deliver the inevitable spiel about humanity's future - and their responsibility to it - Evie yawned. Fortunately; or, perhaps, courteously, her boredom was taken as a sign of fatigue.

 

 'Well, when you've seen one time-bender, I suppose you have seen 'em all. Why don'tyou...er...retire early? The trip isn't scheduled 'til noon tomorrow, but we'll want you familiarized with the technicals. How does sixish sound?'

 

 They emerged to find the camp-site dismantled and a micro-tel - flown in by Supa-Transport - plopped down in the middle of what'd been Jim's improvised herb garden (as cook-elect, he'd insisted on certain spices to 'bring out' , that is, disguise , his  food's flavour). Expert lovers? Well, they were - different. Her face had that sly-eyed impishness combined with doll-like precision-engineered beauty, and everything was perfectly proportioned, cute little nipples erecting from irresistibly pubescent-seeming cones of creamy gold, but below the tiny waist things were, well, different.

 

The rising self-esteem of the Asian nations - due largely to the success of the trade-wars waged by the Sino-Nippon technopolies -had led them to reject the West's cultural hegemony; but the rest of the world's women were still fashion victims, succumbing to fetishistic decadence, becoming slavish followers of the cult of the stiletto-teetering arse-pouter. The result was - perversion. Apart from - if not creating - encouraging (at the very least) the impulse to indulge in anal sex, body fascism had re-modelled the female frame. Present-day women preferred to roll onto their bellies, offering a rear-entry for ball-slapping fun; so he'd oblige, slamming it in to the hilt, 'til they'd tasted all the Nubian meat he could give them (nothing more satisfying than plugging a high-arsed white-bitch Nazi); but groans and squirms were no substitute for that look in a girl's eyes as she came, admitting she'd been had.

 

 He'd seen an old style inflatable once; apparently the lonely folks'd used 'em before sextronics became a billion-credit state-approved

 

industry.Nowadays everybody got his/her unit when they'd reached puberty (unless their parents objected, and then they'd to prove the kid wasn't sexed-up yet), for the boys, a genuine hole-in-the-corner of their living-cubes: you stuck in your tool and, either let the apparatus suck you off, or else you rammed away at it 'til your load jettisoned; for the girls, a fat sculpted pillar of vibrating plas-flesh (better than whatever the real thing looked like - guaranteed) jutting from a rocking-horse affair: you simply climbed aboard and, living-out that self-fulfilling prophecy of the nursery, rode your 'cock-horse', a 'white lady on a white horse' (if that was your preferred colour scheme), the Shangri-La la land of 'As-Much-As-I-Damn-Well-Please.

 

 Scientifically and healthwise it made sense.Youngsters these days weren't the hunched-up, lop-sided, neurotic wankers of the Repressive Years. If the West could only junk its hall-of-mirrors notions of feminine beauty! Even when you could get a girl to lie right-side-up, it was like making love to an old-style inflatable with a cunt  half-way up its back.Evie, on the other hand; well, it felt right.

 

 'Jesus!'

 

 'That's me babe. Slowly now. Make it last. We might not get another.'

 

 On top now, raising herself to let him watch; slippy black luncheon meat, emerging from her red-lipped pout, almost-but-not-quite losing his straining-to-keep-it-in-tip; then letting herself go, coming down on him like an old-fashioned steam hammer, wriggling in sheer naughty-girl delight for a second or two, before gingerly beginning the ascent once more, scared she might loose it during the climb, wanting it to start at the very instant she made the decision to grind down on him again, wanting him to come too, to feel him shoot it into her, shooting her down, killing her briefly, a 'little death', an all-too-short oblivion.

 

 At the zenith she felt herself going; throwing her head back, russet mane discharging static-electric sparks of blue fire, she eased herself down, settling there Sphinx-like; then,cracking her spine like a whip, she sprang from his cock, dangling her hair over his face, creating between them a tunnel of midnight through which, though blind, hecould sense the gaze of her cat-green eyes:so he surrendered, reaching down between her legs, between his legs, a single stroke, spunk raining down, spit-spat on-her-back, dribbling through still-cascading tresses, dripping onto his face, his tongue, into his mouth, 'til she hungrily sealed his lips with a saltier kiss and the pungent smell of ozone.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 The aliens were certainly different. He'd found he could manage the forward controls easily enough; although he sometimes whished his arms were longer. Those behind him were, however, a problem. Happily, at least for him, the instruments were locked into a 'there-and-back' mode (the Bureau's hierarchy had declared that the risk involved in attempring an override which could damage the equipment was too great; moreover, rescued aliens might be grateful enough to share all their secrets). Because use of the left hand 'search' mechanism would, therefore, be minimal, he'd be able to manipulate the right hand controls while turning sideways to trigger those at the rear - at least that was the theory. The alternative was to rely on the 'auto-pilot', but noone trusted it. Where'd he put his alien if he got one? He had his doubts, but they said it could be  done; anyway, it was too late to back out now.

 

 He wouldn't even be able to defend himself against attack. One of the  features of this gizmo was that you couldn't take back anything that was manufactured. They'd been hard pressed to get them both something they could wear! Apparently the contraption itself was organic.Essentially it'd been grown! Now that was technological advancement! On the other hand, perhaps the aliens weren't as clever as they thought? In the early days of the 'horseless carriage' they'd suggested you wouldn't be able to breathe if you broke a thirty-klom speed limit. Maybe, when you sped into the future, you'd age and rot? Conversely, when travelling backwards through time, perhaps the entropy arrow got reversed and you grew progressively younger until - pop! - you passed out of existence? That scenario would also account for the missing aliens, their 'time displacers' would, if placed on automatic, have arrived in the past without them. It would also explain why, when the Bureau had picked him for this mission, the Dictatorship of the White Evangelical Christian Fundamentalists had let him go - one less uppity nigger. He  tried focusing on images of people enjoying rides in all kinds of present-day high-speed open-air 'horseless carriages', but it didn't help; he found himself holding his breath.

 

 In response to the technician's signal he began to implement the sequence he'd been required to memorise and, as he did so, out of the corner of his eye he watched Evie's fingers performing the same task. She finished without mishap but, in adjusting his stance to reach back for the start/stop lever, he had toturn away from her. Consequently, as he used his right hand to open up what he'd come to think of as the 'throttle', he wasn't  entirely certain she'd be alongside when he turned back to engage the 'search' function. However, despite the optical distort factor, he could see that they were now 'travelling' together.

 

 The experts said it would take three minutes of 'real' time, but they couldn't be sure how long that would seem. They'd been gone almost a minute when the change occurred. Initially he thought it was a hallucination; his arm appeared  to be getting longer!However, as his clothes burst open to expose a body rapidly being covered by thick dark hair, he realized his error. It wasn't entropy that time-travel affected - it was evolution! He'd reach his destination with a gene structure millions of years old! The next two minutes were spent in horrified contemplation of this fact; and the experts were proved right: it seemed like an eternity. He almost neglected to pull the 'stop' lever; if he had missed his cue he'd never have been able to re-enter the space-time continuum: instead, he'd have entered what the experts called 'limbo', a no-place in which death-through-starvation was the only cheering certainty. It was a near thing too; at first he panicked when the warning beacon flashed out: however, as he reached back, the craft was already slowing to a halt.His instinct for self-preservation had, he grinned wryly at the newly-grown tail which had evidently saved him, always been strong. He frowned. It was the aliens' third limb... Then it hit him: these  machines weren't designed for aliens; they were meant to be used by human beings -l ike himself and Evie -who would 'evolve' during the trip!

 

 The sight of her jolted him out of his reverie; he hadn't considered how they'd look to each other. Her tawny fur was, however, decidedly attractive; he'd never seen a fabric more sensuously exotic - or was that erotic? She obviously felt the same; as she stroked hisown silky hide he tried to say her name, but the articulation wasn't there: he could only manage the first syllable before will power had to give way to biology.

 

 'Ahdm,' she gruntedin response. 'Ahdm.'

 

 He couldn't  quite make it out.Oh, but of course! She was trying to say his name...Adam? Was that it? He couldn't remember. His brain began to buzz insistently; there was something else he was supposed to be doing, something... The Word may have been there in the beginning but, as its buzzing stopped, instinct became king: ignorant of Eve's hideousness, he pulled her towards him.

 

Galactic Guardian: Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man

 

 As MAP crossed the Square of the Dancing Cell, close to the building where he was completing his junior internship as a medico, he happened to glance up at one of the cameras. In the early days of the 'watchers-in-the-streets campaign there'd been that mingling of fear and loathing on the faces of people brought up in the shadow of the prophecy of 'Big Brother', but MAP's look was rather one of affectionate tolerance than hatred. As a deterrent the 'eyes-in-the-sky' had worked perfectly; street criminals couldn't operate beneath them and, after a while, noone even bothered to monitor what they recorded. Consequently, when the Bureau of Pschology wanted to  study crowd dynamics, permission was secretly granted for them to view the tapes.

 

 The idea had been around for a long time, but careful analysis had proved that there were certain individuals which society - behaving much in the same way as a living organism defending itself against cancer - persecuted. MAP had been given the task of identifying, locating, and interviewing these pariahs. He smiled as he remembered how one of his first subjects had turned out to be the chief of a sub-department within the Bureau itself; the Music Therapy section. His smile widened as he recalled how, 'phones tuned in to the newest music-satellite, Leslie Rusher had been totally oblivious of the hostile reactions he'd been getting from the shoppers in what was now, thanks to the success of their work, Micheal Jackson Prospect.

 

 Leslie's psychological profile had turned out to be fairly representative.Some of the other interviewees had 'confessed' to schizophrenia, but most admitted suffering a 'nervous breakdown' from which, as was the case with Leslie, they'd never fully recovered. In fact, when MAP asked him about it, he'd said he didn't want to recover. He'd spoken in somewhat mystical terms of the disease being the cure but, when pressed, hadn't been able to provide a more concrete formulation.However, when he'd gone on to say that he believed 'other people' to be the 'real' problem (apparently he tuned into the music satellites in order to tune them out), MAP had decided that the intuitions of paranoid schizophrenics might be worth investigating.

 

 Chief Robins had listened patiently enough, but he'd taken the line that a disease was an illness and the Bureau was looking for an antidote to it. MAP's response had been to implement Plan 'B'. He'd been careful not to mention Leslie by name; consequently there'd been no suspicion when he'd requested a transfer to Music Therapy.Officially he'd become Leslie's underling; unofficially Leslie had become his 'patient'.

 

 He'd managed to appropriate a lotof the tapes and they'd begun by viewing Leslie's stroll through the Prospect. It had already been established that, whereas most people were unperturbed by the presence of individuals like Leslie, some functioned in a fashion similar to that of the white cells in the body's immune system, that is, they seemed 'programmed' to attack 'disease carriers'. The 'attacks' took many forms: in Leslie's case people tended to be deliberately obstructive; anything was, it  seemed, permissible,just  so long as Leslie's self-impelled course through the Prospect could be disrupted and made to break down.

 

 He'd found that he wasn't showing Leslie anything he hadn't already seen. Moreover, whatever it was Leslie did to provoke society's defense mechanism, he'd claimed it was premeditated. At  first he'd been unconscious of the reason for certain people's adverse reaction to him, later he'd observed that there were particular modes of movement and progression which were taboo: intrigued, he'd adopted them all. The result had been an increase in the number of 'white cells' and the frequency of the 'attacks'. It was at this point that Leslie had opted to 'tune in and tune out'; anything short of physical violence hadn't been able to affect him then, and he'd grooved along happily ever after.

 

 MAP had concluded that, in his unconscious phase, Leslie had been paranoid, or,in other words, he hadn'tbeen able to reconcile what  his emotions were telling him, that is, they were out to get him, with what his intellect told him, that is, they couldn't be; a 'mind-split' which ultimately led to the condition psychologists knew as schizophrenia. Fortunately Leslie had judged in favour of his  emotions, if he hadn't, he'd have gone under. As it was, there'd still been a glitch in his system - music addiction.

 

 The breakthrough had come when, in an idle moment, they'd discussed the respective merits of various twentieth-century musicians. Leslie had mentioned that an artist whom he particularly liked had been painted as 'wacko'; he'd then produced a tape of the star dancing to tracks from something called Chiller. Recognition had been almost instant, many of the moves were exaggerated versions of those Leslie had employed in his progress through the Prospect. However, when MAP had drawn his attention to this fact, Leslie had denied his was a 'copy-cat' performance. Apparently the moves were 'natural' to carriers of the 'disease'. The next question had been obvious: was it infectious?'

 

 MAP had gone back to the tapes.He'd supposed that the larger organism did fear infection. However, on closer inspection, it had become clear that the people who constituted society's 'white cells' were, insofar as they were conscious of their role at all, actually concerned with self-protection.They attacked 'rogue cells' like  Leslie because his presence triggered in them a similar need to behave 'abnormally'.

 

 He'd come up with a simple equation: abnormal behaviour = abnormal cell behaviour = cancer. However, although Leslie had admitted to having contracted that disease, after what he'd described as his 'conversion' he'd experienced a remission so total that his doctors had said they'd never recover from it. MAP's revised hypothesis had posited that society's 'white cells' were  making the error of confusing the body's reaction tocancer, that  is, the activation of a self-healing code which necessitated a sort of mobile yoga, with the disease itself. He'd been wide of the mark again, but he hadn't missed by much. Subsequent tests had shown that the suppressors of 'abnormality' were more likely to cause illness - in both themselves and others - than prevent it; or,in  other words, because cancer resulted from interference with the processes it triggered, MAP's 'self-healing code' was obviously no such thing. So what was it?

 

 The only way to find out had been for Leslie to perform the yogic dance. He'd started by copying Jackson's routine in Chiller (they'd known they were getting warm because Leslie had seemed to gain energy with each step), but that had ended in frustration. All MAP had been able to get out of him was that, after a while, the music got in the way. He'd suggested doing it without the music, but Leslie had still felt imprisoned by rhythm. He'd clearly wanted to go 'freestyle' and MAP hadn't had any better ideas, so...

 

 His reverie was broken by a white-blue pulse of light above the camera in the tree. Leslie, it appeared, had come to meet him. In his new form he was happy, healthy and, so far as anyone had been able to determine, immortal.Could one ask for more? Today MAP was being honoured by the Bureau as the liberator of the 'dancing cell'. Before Leslie had shown the way, its attempts at transforming the human organism had failed. As head of the relatively new Silent Dance department, MAP had changed all that. Could he ask for more? Yes, he decided as the ball of pulsating energy detached itself from the tree to bob along in the air beside him, he'd like to be a full-blown schizophrenic too.

 

If music be the food of love...

 

Don Osmond watched MAP stride purposefully through the portal of his workcube and went back to what he`d been doing before the `great man` arrived. It would have been difficult to explain to someone not of the cognoscenti just exactly what that was, but suffice it to say that Don had something in his pocket that made girls (and boys} go zang! He`d managed to restrain the impulse to experiment on the `great man`but there was a pretty little brunette  on B deck that he was dying to interfere with. Humminga recently composed ditty which he hoped might bear future fruit, he strolled across to the personnel chute and allowed the null-grav field to carry him down to where the maid was waiting.

 

Lieutenant Weedle was thought to be rather a cold fish. Her peers annually voted her `most likely to sink the Titanic`. But it was generally agreed that nine tenths of the iceberg were above the waistline.

 

 `Two icecream sundaes with cherries on top` was how one wag described her. But, if anyone thought that they would get their hands on those cherried trifles on this or any other (no trifling matter) Sunday, they were very much mistaken. Martine`s mammaries were the proud possession of a proud owner and the property had `trespassers will be prosecuted` written all over it. Unperturbed, Don sidled up to her with a cheery grin and winked broadly at the other occupants of the relaxation module.

 

 `Show us yer tits Martine`, he blurted immoderately, a hush descendinglike a clenched fist on the awestruck denizens of REALAXE 2, Some of the more hardened veterans of what were now generally known as the BEM wars continued the game, a necessary activity because it consisted of preventing (by any and all means necessary) a Tarkan Octorachnid from wreaking bloody carnage on everyone within a range of fifty metres - but even they endeavoured to perform the self-imposed task quietly using only the much cherished ceremonial hand tools (Neptunian Trident, bestowed upon the Order by a grateful Aucthon after the Blue Angels massacred a peaceable-but-irritatingly-beautiful Delfin merpeople on that giantgreen waterworld near Old Terra now subject-by-treaty to the First manta of -as it happens - Tark; Alterran axe Sapientae, presented on the occasion of the Angelic destruction of a bothersome nest of honey-gathering Avians by the simple expedient of cutting down the sacred Yggdrassil tree in which they dwelt using a sex-starved genetically engineered werbeaver from the now de-forested, soon-deserted, and soon-to-be desert world of Dune; and, of course, the Sword of Sodomia, won on the field of battle when, after defeating a rabble army of escaped slaves looking rather like cuddly-but-obstreperous koalas, the Angels had proceeded to bugger the animals senseless with the butts of their Neptunian Tridents). One Grizzled space warrior`s face demonstrated a torn mixture of chagrin at having to keep batting away a spider-legged tentacleattempting to rip off his wedding tackle and genuine fear that he might miss the hitherto unknown sevrets of Martine`s treasured chest. A compromise was, he concluded, the best solution and, careful not to inflict any permanent damage upon what was, after all, a very rare and precious example of Tarkan fauna destined for the Emperor`s own private zoo on Pandemonium Secundus, he slashed off the business end of the be-taloned serpentine with a deft stroke of his trusty Sodomia and, content to allow what was left of the once-fearsome tendril to writhe impotently at his groin which, as luck would have it, he found so pleasant that his own equipment was miraculously restored to potency, he proceeded to rapidly calculate the chances of the Tarkan Octo-spider regenerating in the six weeks it would take to reach their destination. Reflecting dolefully that it would perhaps take half a light year, he proceeded to depressurize the abdominal section of his  armoured suit, key in his wrist compsole what he liked to think of as the debriefing code that would release what the more ribald members of the Order often referred to as the Chastity Belt*, extricated his swelling manhood and, inserting it into the gory stump of the Octo`s writhing tentacle, turned to admire the view.

 

  The view turned to face her `admirer` with such haughtinessthat those onlookers who hadn`t had the good (or bad, depending on which way it looked at you) fortune to face the Mechanoids of Ovidia opted to watch some lighter form of entertainment currently being projected onto a raised holo dais that was the focal part of the area set aside for what - with tongue-in-cheek and a twinkle of irony - passed for `relaxation` amongst them, a gross tableau from `Nightmare on Planet Elm CXXV in which Freddy Kruger, after tearing off the heads of three pubescent virgins fucked the neck ends of their torsos while juggling with the remains of their still-smiling perplexedly (Fred had given those three Minnessotan Maths majors a chance by asking them to perform a complicated arithmetical task, that is, to add two and two, before stringing them up by their heels, fisting their recalcitrant young twats and swinging on their necks until...something snapped inside them!) faces. All of which was, for many of those present, less potentially disturbing than witnessing the consequences of Don`s assault on the pristine fortress of Martine`s virtue.

 

 `Get yer wobblers out luv, be a sweet gal,` the spacer, in the lustful throes of being wanked off by an endangered and dangerous Tarkan tarantula in all its impotent aggressivity, for a brief space of time completely lost his head (fortunately, the now-seemingly elephantine trunk of the Tarkan-amputee was currently in the business of giving head, so he quickly got it back again - but not soon enough!) `If that`s you Theeg of Moronia, you can say goodbye to your balls...and, if it isn`t you can say goodbye to your balls.`

 

 Theeg of Moronia quaked in fear...and orgasm...came and...went...leaving only four of his brethren to defend themselves (and the rest of REALAXE 2 who were beginning to cast querulous glances at the frenyied movements of a wounded and now, therefore (according to the customs of its tribe) obligedly berserker Octorachnid, the flushed face, neck and (from what could be seen of them from beneath the regulation starched-white uniform of the medico class) breasts of an apopleptic off-duty nurse-about-to-explode, and an ever-more-attractive-the-more-you-looked-at-it exit portal) against the monster...as well as the Octorachnid. `Just get yer tits out Martine, there`s a good girl,` Don mumbled and fumbled around inside his trouser pocket for something that wasn`t there!

 

 `Oh, shit,` he breathed, mouth closing spastically around the words over and over again in soundless mime whilst, amidst a tense silent expectancy, Martine uttered the immortal phrase `Stop playing pocket billiards you pathetic wanker - and takea decko at these` and, with the sucking power of an industrial strength vaccuum cleaner, inflated her mammoth mammaries to humungous size, destroying all fabric previously existing between themselves and freedom.

 

 `Oh shit,` Don and the denizens of REALAXE 2 mouthed together in silent unison. Tatooed on each perfect globe of pink satin flesh was a single word which, read consecutively from left to right, produced the legend `HANDS OFF!`.

 

 `More like `hands on` methinks`quoth Don, fumbling at his fly. Then, suddenly remembering, he reachedfor something inside his tunic. A soft sound filled the airlike the wings of a hundred humming birds, almost tuneful but not quite musical those who heard were later to describe it (all except for the tone deaf Torg of Turgida who by means of a too-complicated-to-be-able-to-follow-it sign language, opined that Don had farted). At any rate, its effect on Martine was, to say the least, impressive. If Don`s farts contained N2O `Lust Gas` Torg might`ve been right. With a wordless cry and a face contracted in what, to the casual observer, could`ve been excruciating pain or...very excruciating pain,  Martine thrust Don`s surprised face between her breasts and, wonder of wonders, hugged him.

 

 Our suddenly reluctant homunculus, supported beneath the weight of his paramour`s ardent expressions of desire, began to beat upon the offending instrument of (in other circumstances) pleasurable torture. A `hands on`approach which, though quite literally beating a tatoo on the chest of Martine also flagrantly disobeyed the `hands off` injunction tatooed there, a paradoxical percussive interlude that, nevertheless, had the desired resultas, emitting strange cooing sounds akin to those of a wounded dove, Miss M picked our man up off the floor, put him under a slender but - evidently - muscular arm and, with a businesslike air, exited stage right...or was that left (at this point in the manuscript there appears to be some confusion because the author wasn`t quite able to recall where he`d imagined the door to be...sorry, ed.).

 

 A somewhat bemused Don concentrated hard while looking at the only thing he could - the steel of the ship`s corridor which, to the rhythm of his captor`s footsteps, appeared to be constantly on the verge of hitting him in the face.

 

 `Wuuuuuuuuurgh!` he moaned in vertiginous dismay. `Wuuuuuuuuuurgh!`

 

 Martine, unperturbed by what she supposed were her prisoner`s tentativecries of endearment, stepped through the portal of her sleeping cube and, with a deft practised movement, flung aside the coverlet and deposited the still - feebly - protesting Don face down on the pillow.

 

 `Uuuuuuunnnh!` he gurgled plaintively.

 

 `Uuuuuuunnnh!` she responded, playfully slapping at his groin while tearing off his shirt and sitting on his face.

 

 Interesting, he thought betwixt coughing and wincing, she doesn`t wear underclothes - and she shaves too he noted, almost responding amorously to the thwacks and cuffs being sporadically aimed at his newly-exposed genitalia.

 

 `Freddy, Freddy,` she groaned.

 

 `Don, actually.`

 

 `Freddy, Freddy,` continued what, for her,seemed to be some sort of sacred litany.

 

 `Kruger?`

 

 `No. Dummy!`

 

 `Don`t know thw fella.`

 

`freddy. Freddy...ahhh...FreddyFlint-stohhhnnnuuuhhh,` sheintoned like some huge priestess of Hannah Barbara as, riding the lips, tongueand...teeth of the now-activelyparticipating warrior minstrel, Martine rode Don`s face- now illuminatedlike that od some unholy cathedral gargoyle by a multitude ofbared flourescent fangs, apparently crowding to get at this cornucopia of pussy meat.

 

 A sheepish and dishevelledDon Osmond waited apprehensively. He`d been put `on the carpet`by MAP who, after rapidly interrogating a few of the REALAXE 2 survivors (after the berserkerOctorachnid, taking its chance while all eyes had been focused on Big M`stitties, to rapidly spin and eject a slender thread that, stronger than plasteel, allowed it to swing from the ceiling and, rapidly revolving like some horrific parody of a funfare ride, create devastating bloody carnage among the SMs with its razor sharp claws) had arrived at Martine`s cube to find her in the act of inserting the shagged out Don`s left leg into her voracious, need I say rapacious, cunt. Zapping her with a stun bolt from his eye-laser, he`d notified the med-squad, picked up Don much in the manner of Martine an hour or so ago and, seconds later, placed him `on the carpet` in front of his desk. The woebegone Don, embarassedly endeavouring to gather together the shredded remnants of his tattered dignity in the shape of his shredded and tattered shirt and shorts, attempted a smile.

 

 `Close your mouth son, light`son.`

 

`Um,` Don clammed up.

 

 `What happened?`

 

 `A...joke?`

 

 `Unfunny.`

 

`An...experiment?`

 

 `Better. Explain.`

 

 `Well, as you know, uh,,,don`t you?`

 

 MAP waited, finger ends tapping out some inscrutable code pattern on the desktop.

 

 `We...uh, that is, I...uh, well we...uh...I`ve invented a new instrument that...er...works on the human bervous system to induce sexual abandon...um, sir.`

 

 `A sonic wand?`

 

 `Not quite. Ultrasonic. Like those Old Terra whistles that only networked Syrian telepaths could hear.`

 

 `Dogs.`

 

 `Uh huh.`

 

 `And you played it for Martine. Not exactly flattering.`

 

 `No. I should`ve played her `Handel`s Water Music`, more appropriate for a Medusa,` he persevered with a soft chuckle and was rewarded for his efforts with a cold eye.

 

 `Anyway,` he coughed slightly, `I just keyed the prototype into her psych profile and...yang!`

 

 `Uhuh. Zang. I see...uh, Don?`

 

 `Yessir?`

 

 `Fetch it here and...uh, Don?`

 

 `Bring the guitar or whateverthehellyoucallit here too.`

 

 `Ready sir,` the comptroller studied the Galactic grid before her, shifted the viewpoint a tad in order to scan both stars in the Sirius binary system, and turned expectantly to MAP.

 

 `Everything seems `A`-okay here Donny boy,` all enmity forgotten now that the psych techshad gotten together to create a guitay and a tune that would insure lust only in those Subverter manufactured pseudo-humanoids with what the Federation had labelled `Lust Stupidity syndrome`.

 

 `Okay, so let`s do it,` grinned the soldier bard, the flashbulb of his smile perhaps unconsciouslyseeking to capture the moment for posterity.

 

 `Right-o,` MAP signalled to the compubabe, frontlobe connected to the console in front of her by means of a cellular optic rod and the S-DIN micro-socket implanted into the retina of her left eye, `Code word `Puppy Love.`

 

 The babe, so-called because all functions other than metamental are aborted at birth for this class of spacer, resulting in the large headed atrophied body with-the-likenesss-of-a-foetus common to those sacrificed by their starstruck parents to the Moloch that was cybertechnology.

 

 The shipcomputer spoke for its succubus with a synthetic childgirl gravity. `I`ve pushed the red thing and the lights are a bit bright now Mister.`

 `Charming, charming. Eh Don? Charming.`

 

 `Delightful MAP. Delicious too,` he reflected, licking his lips lustily, `what say we fuck it while we wait for the reports.`

 

 `Suits.`

 

 `Yeah, I suppose so,` Don shrugged. `But I`d prefer the real thing.`

 

 

 Light years may have passed when the two Space Marines, sex charges drained to the dregs, emerged from the doubtful joys of the eroticon contact to view The Record.

 

 `For a chicklet who`s never had the real thing, that birdy has a fervid imagination,` Don enthused.

 

 `Hmmmm. I never thoughta Patrochlan Dwarfwhale could get it onwith an Aldebaran Horsetree.`

 

 `What were you?`

 

 `Neither. I was the vibropenis - an interesting `Contact?`

 

 `Sure,` Don`s teeth positively gleamedin appreciation, `while you were `makin` the link` with the freaks, the babe here was showing me how to get in touch with my female self. `Wow!` he ejaculated (quite literally too in fact as his stimulator - still jacked into the compubabe`s eroticon - reacted to the memory of his internal fulfilment with an orgas-inducing brain jolt), stretching for the compsex cable and ripping it from the socket, `that`s certainly some recreational compensation for a compubabe no-life - almost better than the real thing.`

 

 `Yeah,` MAP glanced at the `babe`, left eye plugged into its compsole, slack lips drooling copious gobbets of green-blue saliva from the malfunctioning drip - drug tube in its neck, foetoid head bowed forward...ever forward, arms and legs thalidomide-induced no-things for easier portability and...storage, he shuddered, `yeah, almost.`

 

 

 `So, there it is gentlemen,` MAP paused to scan the less-grim-than-before-the-filmshow-but-still-pretty-serious-about-the-whole-thing faces, `throughout human spaceat the strains of `Puppy Love` by Donny Osmond hordes of Subverter humandroids, suddenly discovering their sexuality,hurled themselves upon the nearest living flesh within reach...men, women, children, babies, networked Sirian telepaths -`

 

 `Uh. Dogs, that is.` interjected his Rabidic Mormon sidekick.

 

 ` - horses, octorachnids - `

 

 `Not a wise move,` growled Don.

 

 ` - each other - `

 

 `Now, that was something to see,` images of headless Sub-v torsos still-fucking after each had bitten the head off the other scrolled across the tri-D screen located where his pineal gland used to be before the mandatory lobotomy obligatory for SM candidature (feelings weren`t part of a soldier`s armature [so it goes - ed.]).

 

 ` - trees, rockformations previously thought to be non-sentient but now known to have an advanced - and useful - culture based on the decay of their chemical constituentsand the emission of various forms of particles as a consequence - pions, gluons, quarks, mesis etc.`

 

 `Why useful?` enquired one owlish member of the ensemble.

 

 `Well, it`salittle bit complicated,` Don informed them, `butlet`s say we want to construct a hyperway, but a mountain range stands in its projected path - `

 

 `We burn a hole through the damn thing!`roared a bucolic protagonist from somewhere near the middle of the serried ranks of senior Marine Commanders.

 

 `Of course...we could, MAP paused in search of emphasis, `but wouldn`t it be more convenient if we only had to explain to the rock what we wanted it to do?`

 

 `I knew Faith could move mountains, I didn`t know you could do it too MAP.`

 

 `I can`t. Not yet. But we`re currently negotiating with several mesas in the belief that they`ll agree to transform themselves into suitable space ports in return for access to certain mineral deposits necessary to their developmental functioning. When we figure out what that means and how to stop it once we`ve started it, we`ll agree terms.`

 

 `By the way MAP,how is Faith?`

 

 `Still mountainous...and they`re still moving,` he twinkled mischievously at the assembly, `butonly when she walks. Hrruuummph! In the course of the operation we learned too that certain bodies of water in various of the sectors under our control also appear to be sentient.`

 

 `If the sight of `people` killing each other for a glass of water, that is, who`s gonna fuck itis suggestive of intelligent H2O then, yeah, that`s what we learnt. Myself, I have a few doubts,` doubted Don.

 

 `Sergeant,` MAP gestured to a shadowy figure at the far end of the raised lecture platform from which he and Don had held forth upon the facts and possibilities arising from completion of `Mission Martine`.

 

 `Sah!` Blue Angel warlord Kron of Ktar strode out, one chic black eye-patch (an affectation from his younger days, with his enhanced infra-red vision he could see right through it), one eye burning red with the promise of a stinging laser burst if he thought he detected any signs of heckling or, worse still, non-attention paying. Encased in the blue-white-and-silver plasteel and chromex armour of his Angelic brethren, he towered over the suitless gathering like some latter day Achilles preparing to receive tribute from the elders of Greece.

 

 `Remember who we are sergeant,` a necessary reminder. It hadn`t been uncommon, in the early days of Spacer Command, for marines in armour to go suddenly berserk when faced with the prospect of moving among the far-too-vulnerable-in-comparison suitless majority. The tendency in such situationshad been to behave like gods, a psychological danger that needed to be watched - as now - Kron, if he`d wished, could have slain the whole High Command byflexing his forearm,  it was a sign of great trust and a signal honour that he be allowed to appear before them encased in full battle regalia.

 

 `Sah!` Kron glared at some speck visible only to him somewhere far far beyond the plascrete sphere protecting those gathered from, amongst other things, suicide bombers (otherwise peaceful Avians conditioned to kill in the act of killing themselves after their digestive system had been converted to synthesizing nitroglycerin from the honey they consume, thus turning them into lethal flying bombs), `the mission was, so to speak, relatively successful.

 

 `Cut the crap Kron. Tell it like it is.`

 

 `Sah! Well,okay guys. Truth is,we really fucked those Sub-vees this time.``

 

 Laughter. Cheering. Farting sounds, whistled. A few networked Sirian telepaths standing in readiness, their handlers preparing to administer `soothing` batons.

 

 `I thought the idea was not to fuck `em Kron.`

 

 `Sah! Speaking metaphysically. Sah!`

 

 `Metaphorically.`

 

 `Metaphallically?`

 

 `Yeah,  that`s it Kron!`

 

 `You got it man.`

 

 `Yo bro`! We fucked `em up good. Metaphallically speakin`!`

 

 `Order! Order!` called MAP from the rostrum.

 

 `Blue Angels` Order sir. At your service.`

 

 Shouting. Catcalls.Flourishing of batons. Yelps. A few oaths. Cries of enraged SMs in pain as mistimed `soothing batons` connected with shaven hbeads, legs, arms. Sounds of blows being exchanged.

 

 `ORDER!` bellowed Master Arms Practitioner, Supreme Commander of Allied Space.

 

 Silence. Sound of chairs being repositioned. Air of respectful attention.Some gentle clearing of throats. Expectance.

 

 `Basics boys,` Kron resumed. `The alien constructs were, for the most part, sitting ducks. Our lads were in full armour. Most citizens stayed in their homes. When the music came over the P.A. systems the only life forms available for sexual frolics were animals and, generally speaking, plants. All we had to do was look for people engaging in public acts of bestiality while ripping each others` throats out with teeth bigger and brighter than Donny Osmond`s. A cinch. No sweat.

 

 `You say `for the most part` sergeant?`

 

 `Uh huh. We had some trouble spottin the rock rapists, water wankers and radish ravishers, but these Sub-vees were pretty insatiable and, well, they seemed to favour moving targets so we jus` waited for `em to jump on somethin` mobile and biggish.`

 

 `Biggish?`

 

 `Yeah. Cows attracted a lot of `em. Horses probably accounted for the rest- or their xenobiological equivalents.`

 

 `We heard they even went for Tarkan Octorachnids. That so Kron?`

 

 `Not for long.They weren`t stupid. Just crazy.`

 

 `Thanks Kron,` MAP stepping forward ushering the veteran spacer off the stage to thunderous applause.

 

 `So, what`ve we learned from all this, gentlemen?` MAPenquired of an audience purring with self-satisfaction.

 

 `We`ve affirmed that the Space Marines are a fundamentally Christian organization that frown upon sexual abnormality of any sort,` Don offered in a tone of solemn gravity.

 

 `Sounds about right,` MAP seconded.

 

 `Amen to that,` came a voice from the throng and the sentiment, amplified a thousandfold, came echoing back in leathery throated crescendo `AMEN!`

 

 `Care to play us out, Don?` asked MAP doing his twinkling impishly `thing`.

 

 `Sure,` says Don, slinging his Ultrasonic Fender Strat and, to the refrain `Onward Christian Soldiers` out they all trooped into a sunless night on the far rim of a galaxy at peace - and Amen to that.

 

 

* Powered armour has to be worn at all times when actively engaged in a mission. Only afterwards are the SMs allowed to enjoy the fruits of victory - after 'debriefing', the practice of reorienting members of special units after work in the field, alarge part of which involves sexual 'R 'n' R'  and the removal of underwear or 'briefs'.

 

Little Red Riding and Robin - Hoods

 

Carrying her wicker basket along the forest's winding path to grandma's house, Little Red Riding Hood (so called because of the cape she always wore, clasped at ther throat by a golden brooch, made by mountain elves and cast in the shape of a dragon with its penis in its mouth that ,if you looked hard enough, would grin back at you and wink conspiratorially), was wondering whether to go straight there as her mother had ordered - a wise precaution on account of the wood bandits - or go the long way round which was prettier and slightly more dangerous (though it offered the possibility of meeting 'the legendary Robin Hood', as her boyfriend was proud of describing himself, although he was only seven and hadn't yet learned how to count further than that yet), decided to go 'straight there' as her mother had recommended and take the long way back in the hope that the slightly more dangerous route might produce such delicious dangers as staring deeply into one anothers' eyes and sitting so close together that their knees touched.

 Tripping along gaily beside the violets and primoroses that, nodding their heads at her in a way that was very similar to the conspiratorially winking tail-eating dragon brooch clasped at her throat, she began to daydream, looking about her at the dark trees of the forest as, tall, straight and majestic, their leaves golden and suntanned, purpled and glowing, occasionally falling about her, onto her, and into her basket, cloak and surprise of surprises, right into her little hand insdie her very own tiny pocket where she gripped tightly onto it and made a wish because the catching of leaves even by accident was an auspicious omen that invited the catcher to work a bit of luck magic for his or herself.

 'I wish that Robin would marryme and that I could have everything I want when I want - just  like he can,' she said to the trees and flowers, standing up straight and holding her arms aloft, span round three times, her head getting rather dizzy and, feeling like she had to sit down, sat down - thump! - in the middle of the path, senses swimming, the purple golden green leaf held up in front of her eyes which, slowly focusing, filled with silvery light and jubilation as, who should she see striding merrily towards her along the rudely beaten track but Robin himself, red-faced and sharp-eyed, holding his bow aloft in triumph and excitement, his right hand containing a scrawny rodent he'd ambushed a few minutes ago while it was sunning itself on a hillock in front of a sun-warmed rock that, careful not to arouse the 'wee sleekit tim'rous beastie's sense of danger, Robin had crawled up to and, without even thinking about stringing an arrow to his bow, which anyway only had those little red suction cups on the end that, if you licked them, stuck to  paintwork and windows, hit it with a rock, the unprotesting creature, which turned out to be quite a fat mouse, eatable probably, he assured himself, despite the fact that the rock had squashed it pretty near flat and squelched all or most of its insides out of it to lie in stringy pools of red stickiness all across the greensward, then finding itself impaled upon one of the arrows from the quiver, it all looking a bit silly really, Robin having had to remove one of the red-sucker-tips to skewer his flat, messy prize with, and then replace it afterwards,a not very plausible trophy by any stretch of the imagination.

 'Hola!' he cried, thrusting the almost rat into the face of the besotted maid bent on marrying him, 'I killed it myself,' he proudly flourished his toy bow from Woolworth's, 'it put up a terrific fight I can tell you,' he enthused, 'but after a horrendously touch-and-go struggle I managed to overcome its fearsome jaws and rapier-like claws to emerge as the bloody-but-unbowed victor.'

 'It's very flat,' she examined the diminutive and diminished corpse, Robin her boyfriend having hit it not once but four or five times with the rock - just to be sure you know - because it felt kind of good and, well, the damn thing wouldn't stop squirming about till he'd walloped it a few times good and hard, beating the shit out of it quite literallyin fact, 'what did you do,suck it to death?' she licked the sucker on the end of the piece of dowling with the notch at the end of it for the bow's nylon string, looking up at him with big baby blue eyes in a way that was oddly discomfiting, alluring and promisingly suggestive of something he wasn't quite sure he wanted to get involved in - yet.

 'Will you marry me?' she asked, 'I have a wicker basket with some cakes and oranges and rose-hip syrup that I have to take to grandma, but you can come with us and say 'Hola!' to her if you like and she might give us some choc-lit.'

 'Maid Marrying isn't in my line - yet,' quoth Robin, 'but I'll take your wicca basket,' he thought he was being very clever here and, hoisting it onto his shoulder, hoisted the willing damsel up from the soily turf and dragged her happily blushing furiously all the way to grandma's house, singing this song as he went along;

 

                                                                        'Hola! Apples and Pears,

                                                                        I've unzipped a Banana,

                                                                        Hola! Peaches and Plums

                                                                        I've had Bananarama,

                                                                        Hola! Oranges and Grapes,

                                                                        I've said Abracada-bra

                                                                        Hola! Lemons and Limes

                                                                        I've...na nah na na nah nuh!

                                                                        Hola! Melons and Pot!

                                                                        Forever Carmina Burana!'

 

 'Hola!' Red would cry, holding her cape out like a matador goading a bull, and Robin would make little horns with the index fingers of his hands on top of his head and rush at her in mock earnestness as if ready to gore and trample her with the hooves of his sturdy woodsman's hobnail boots that his mother'd bought from Stead & Simpson's rather than the Dr Scholl's she'd wanted for herself because, though incredibly flat,ugly, clumpy-looking lumpish things, they were so comfy and pleasant to wear, and besides Robin needed new shoes all the time because he would go into that wood with that girl and play 'bullfighters' all day without giving a thought to his poor mum at home wondering where he was and what he was doing and who he was doing it with and hoping it wasn't anything illegal or sick, she suddenly got worried and started glancing fitfully at the clock on the mantlepiece every fifteen or twenty seconds, remembering how he'd once cooked snails in a bonfire with no intention of eating them, just to see  how he would feel about it afterwards, as it were, and the other time when he'd stuffed all manner of weird things he'd caught and killed into a jam jar where they'd festered and deteriorated for months because he'd told everyone it was an important experiment he was conducting upon the slug, worm, bug and lepidoptera population of his mother's rockery.

 'We've arrived cried Red, slipping the latch on the cottage gate and running up the crazy paving of the broken sandstones that led to her grandma who, standing inside her open door, appeared to be greeting them with a big smile, a ferocious display of eye-rolling of the 'Lawdy, lawdy, where've you been chil'?' variety and endeavouring to disguise what looked like a very bad wig inside her bonnet which, spotted withyellow and red spots with smiley-miley faces on them, gave the whole grotesque vision the look of something from inside somebody's bellybutton when they hadn't washed for a week, and grandma's response to Red's greeting was to beckon the pair onwards and inwards to sample the unspecified delights of the interior of her peculiarly foreboding abode.

 'She's getting a bit long in the tooth these days, isn't she Red?' Robin observed, staring hard at the great teeth in the rather elongated jaw and the tongue lolling out of the side like askew stair carpetting,' and those rotating eyeballs are suggestive of B.S.E., the mad cow's diseased for sure,' he opined, peering into the innermost recesses of the bonnet and noting that most of the hair inside consisted of a pair of Big Ears tied in a knot over the top of granny's skull, 'I hope she hasn't got Noddy in there too,' he hoped, 'and she badly needs a shave, especially on her tits,' he exclaimed, observing a veritable forestry commission undertaking poking out of her bodice allover the place, 'my,what big feet you've got grandma,' he told her.

 'All the better for kicking you in the conkers,' grandma cried, suiting word to deed and, demonstrating reflexes better than André Agassi, booted Robin in the balls (love all? - ed.), causing the poor unfortunate to double up in agony and hop about the floor like a mobile wall bracket looking for a shelf to hold up,grandma springing rather too spryly for s septuagenarian upon her granddaughter's  wicker basket and wolfing down its contents in next to no time like a ravenous wolf, 'Owoooooooooh!' granny cried and, booting Robin again for good measure, bounded athletically about the furniture, grunting, snorting and champing on bits of orange pips still sticking between her teeth screaming 'that ball was in!' before 'the legend', straightening up to his full height of about four feet nine inches, battered her on the head with a cricket bat he'd noticed lying about the floor between the ottoman and the writing bureau, crying, 'Na-na na-na na-na na-na, na-na na-na na-na na-na Batman!' as he did so, repeatedly for about ten minutes until grandma's head was just a pulpy splodge on the sofa he'd been bouncing around on before he'd brought bat and venerable old lady's head into violent contact with each other, as is the way of young hoods everywhere when they feel threatened by something they don't understand and which, if they tried to, would probably tear off their heads and stick them up their own bottoms.

 'Robin, you're a wonder,' Red enthused, pulling off granny's undegarments to reveal the coarsely haired tumescence of a wolf in borrowed clothing and, forcing herself not to let the boy wonder see just how interested she was in that horripilating exterior went through to the bedroom of the tiny thatched dwelling to where the real grandma Hood was to be found, tied to a brass bedstead,all naked and wobbly, but with a great big smile on her chops and a tongue like an askew piece of stair carpetting hanging loosely salivating from the side of her mouth while her eyes rolled around at speed inside their sockets and she mumbled incoherently,'There's a good doggy, attaboy, would you like some cho-clit?' over and over again, her hands flapping vaguely and her legs flopping around as if trying to prevent something from remembering it'd happened.

 'She's not wearing anything,' said Red.

 'If she is it wants ironing,' said the Lincoln Green bedecked hero of the bat, prodding at her crinkly breasts with the handle end of his makeshift bludgeon,'shall we untie her or..? he left the unspoken question hanging in the air where it thought about what it was going to be and then hit Red with all the force of an inspiration, her tiny cheeks burning crimson, the buds of her breasts pushing hard against the fabric of her smock, swallowing hard and fighting to protect hereself from baser instincts that whispered deep dark longings for revenge, centering mainly on all those bloody long jaunts through the forest and back, bearing panniers of comestibles like some overused pack mule, to be rewarded only by a square of choc-lit no bigger than a postage stamp of very low value indeed and summarily dismissed as soon as the old crone felt the urge to use her commode and fall asleep, which always occurred immediately after the feast that had begun almost as soon as Red had deposited the contents of her basket onto the kitchen table, her grandmother gathering the whole between her arms and, slapping away all Red's attempts to partake of the picnic herself, greedily gorged herself silly in no particular order; spam being followed by semolina, which was in turn succeeded by a dish of prawns, perhaps to be superceded by croissants and raspberry jam, topped off with sausage rolls and, as dessert, ice-cream with cabbage and broccoli.

 'Let's do her ironing,' she suggested.

 Afterwards, the pair, slightly breathless and dishevelled from all their hard work, decided to go walkabout for a while and cool themselves off in a nearby stream where they could dive off a tree trunk that lay athwart the current into the clean green depths of the waters below; unfortunately, a midget called John Little had had the same idea, and was 'standing his ground' on the log when they arrived, waving his 'staff' threateningly and making hissing noises between what teeth it had, but Robin, unperturbed, simply grabbed the midget's 'stave' and, holding him up by it, cast the squealing pint-sized small fry into some  prickly thorns growing on the bank of the beck, where whoopping and hollering, cursing and crying out for half-an-hour or so, the tiny irritant disturbed their enjoyment tilll Red, annoyed beyond all bearing, threw river rocks at the offensive bush until the sounds of pain and protest ceased.

 'Hola! Stop that girlie!' came a voice from the trees at the other side of the rushing waters, and a fat tonsured monk ambled out into a clearing where, huffing and puffing, he continued, 'Or I'll blow your house down; oh,sorry, wrong fairytale, how about, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Sox, I command you to cease and desist this unseemly behaviour.'

 'Are you talking about Red's socks that have 'made in Boston' tatooed on their instep,' Robin wanted to know, 'or is it something to do with the stoning of the midget, noone will miss it, you know? Besides, it was stopping us from enjoying ourselves.'

 'What midget?' Trya Fuck wanted to know, 'I'm talking about the 'no nude  bathing' signs positioned at strategic points all about the river bank and inside the river as well as written up there in sky writing, he pointed downwards at the reed-concealed array of green lightbulbs from Woolworth's beaming up the confusing message 'nude bat' and upwards at a group of planes busily criss-crossing each other to write 'No nude bat' all over the previously unbroken cerulean imperiousness of the heavenly order, 'it's a crime punishable by Sucking's Tool,' he flopped out a rather huge penis from his cassock.

 'You mean Ducking Stool?' Robin suggested.

 'You can have that and I1ll have the other,' replied the fat monk, picking a plank up fromthe long  grass,balancing it on a log near the bank so that one end sank into the rippling waves while the other stuck up in the air at an angle of 45 degrees;

 

                                                                        'I saw Esau sitting on a see-saw,

                                                                        I saw Esau with my girl,

                                                                        I saw Esau sitting on a see-saw,

                                                                        Giving her the merry whirl,

                                                                        I saw Esau, 'e saw me,

                                                                        I saw red as 'e saw more,

                                                                        I got a chainsaw and I sawed Esau,

                                                                        Haw-haw-haw-haw-haw-haw-haw!'

 

 Robin, strapped to one end of the ducking stool, faced the back of Red who, strapped to the other end on the bank was facing Trya Fuck exposing his prodigious penis, leering expansively, jouncing up and down making Robin's teeth and jaw jar and wrench alternately, his brain bouncing around inside his skull like a pea in a baby's rattle as, eyes unable to focus, Fuck explained to him what was going on.

 'Your girlfriend, 'Holy Sucks' was how you described her, wasn't it Boy Wonder? Well, she's on the sucking stool end of the see-saw and you're on the ducking stool end; if she sucks my tool, you won't godown into the river, that is,' he leered expanisvely once more, 'if she goes down, you won't - clear?' and, without waiting for a response, the tonsured ogre pushed his feet hard against the ground while Robin closed his eyes tightly, expecting to plummet into the depths at any second; unfortunately, Trya  Fuck was so fat his end of the see-saw remained firmly rooted to the river bank, it rising only a few meagre inches before leadenly dropping back into the grooved trench caused by the monk's huge bum.

 'Hola!' cried a voice from some other bushes apart from the one the midget had gotten stoned in (I wondered about that smoke; thought you'd set him on fire as well - ed.), and a Knight on a Snow White's charger came galloping into the clearing, the legend MAP blazoned on his shield and a metre-long double-headed Viking battle-axe in his hand which, twirling aloft like a majorette's baton, he dismounted, walked across to the fat Trya and, bellowing, 'Hola!' once again, watched impassively as the spinning battle-axe descended through the 'No nude bat' sky writing, rewriting the script as it did so, so that it read 'No Fat Fucks Allowed', and returned to Earth, lopping off the Fat Fucks head and burying itself weightily in the make-shift see-saw, catapulted Robin into the air where the knight caught him, hugged him, sat him down next to Red, cut their bonds, gave them a full grin -and did his twinkling impishly thing.

 'Who are you?' Robin wonderingly asked.

 'Uh-huh,uh-huh,' Red goo-eyed him.

 'I'm you from the far past that is the future that is present always,' said MAP, 'come to rescue you in your hour of direst direness - loik,' he chortled, 'aren't you the least bit grateful?'

 'Thanks,' said Robin

 'Goo,' improved Red.

 'Take care,' said MAP, leaping astride the horse charged to her Majesty Snow White, 'and - Have A Nice Day!' he dug his spurs deep into the flanks of the Pegasus, shouted 'Hey ho! Silver! Away!' and shot skywards like a Hawker Harrier VTOL jet, hovering only to write on the sky a last farewell missive, 'Fancy a fuck?' - and was gone.

 'Gee,' improved Red even further.

 'I was like that once,' said Robin cunningly.

 'Wasn't he a nice man?' Red improved to the point of articulate speech.

 'Just another Glory Hound.We both knew I'd turn up to free us, I'd arranged it with ourselves a long time ahead,' Robin told her, 'you can thank me properly later when you get to be my wife Snow White.'

 'But I'm Little Red Riding Hood,' complained Red.

'Only till you lose those rosy cheeks, now stop whining and have a bite of this apple I have in my rucksack.'

 'I'll bite yours if you'll bite mine,' Red dimpled cheekily.

 'Hola!' screamed a voice frombehind a tree just in the nick of time.

 'Oh no!' moaned Robin 'It's Alan a' Dale's brother Chip 'n.I hope he hasn't brought Scarlet Willy the VD victim along with him too.'

 'He's a victim of venereal disease?'

 'No, he's addicted to video discs, CDs featuring Sidhes, the elven folk humping themselvessilly on PCs, that is, on Pixies; and masturbating along with the action, which is why his willy is always scarlet, he rubs it till it bleeds and all the skin comes off in his hands.'

 'And why don't you want to see Chip 'n?' Red wanted to meet both of them - of course.

 'He's a computer addict, thinks if he stays too long away from the screen he'll lose his connection with something he calls 'Cosmo' who, according to Chip 'n, keeps linking him up to different programmes without his permission, so he's wandering about the forest now trying to find someone who'll help him with the software he wants, someone like you probably.'

 'Ooh,how...er...distasteful!' she lied unconvincingly.

 'Hola! too,' squealed a second voice and VD victim Scarlet Willy appeared, wearing what appeared to be a red velvet codpiece but what was actually a wraparound piece of hospital gauze stuffed with cotton wool to soak up blood from his self-inflicted wounds, and standing alongside him but slightly to the rear, a shadowier figure, head cocked perpetually to one side, as if expecting instructions or expected unexpected expectations.

 'Are you naked?' squeaked Red in her turn, standing up and opening her cape.

 'No,' said Scarlet, fumbling painfully at his groin and frowning hard.

 'Nice piece of software,' Chip'n offered, 'how much Robin?'

 'Not for sale at any price,' declared Robin stoically, 'how much've you got?'

 'How about six Sidhes and a Pixie?'

 'Two blondes, two redheads, a brunette, and a black.'

 'Black girl or black-haired?'

 'One Afro-American, one French, one Chinese, one Russian, one Indian (sub-continental) and one Japanese, the Pixie has to be a Thai boy.'

 'Okay, it's a deal.Six CDs to play with your PC.'

 'Just joking.Red stays with me.'

 'Mmf!' said Red, and 'Pfui!' she grumbled rebelliously.

 'Scuse,' mumbled Scarlet, 'I have to bathe my genitals', and so saying leapt fully clothed into the limpid green pool, instantly staining the waters red and poisoning all the fish which, turning belly-sideup, floated miserably downstream in despondent droves, helpless to escape the nets of the fishmeal factory's fishermen who, usually employing dynamite to achieve the same stunning results, put their TNT back in their pockets and the fish into the barrels already ready and waiting to take them to the plant that would grind them up tomake animal fodder and diseases like BSE and AIDS.

 'Time we were getting off,' decided Robin.

 'Oo-er!' giggled Red.

 'Want to come Chip 'n?'

 Chip 'n didn't even deign to respond, simply cocked his head on one side, stuck his finger in his ear, said 'Tin-a-ling-a-loo,' cocked one eye at the sky, one at the space  between his legs, announced 'Led Zeppelin CD Houses of the Holy,'The Ocean', and began nah-ing: 'Nah nah na na na na na nah, nah nah na na na na na, nah nah na na na na na, nah nah na na na na na...and thanks Cosmo,' and everyone stood in amazement as twin goldenhaired and naked rock nymphs clamberedout of the water and  began sunning themselves innocently on some boulders by the riverbank.

 'Nice software,' said Chip 'n, 'how much?'

 'You're a right nana,' Robin opined,'let's go Red' and together the pair dressed and setoff down the rustic track that would lead to the home of Little Red Riding Hood.

 They'd gone quite a long way before they were interrupted again,which was a great pity from Red's point of view who'd managed to get as far as holding onto one of Robin's sleeves and staring longingly into his left ear occasionally.

 'Hola!' thundered the voice of a black-bearded giant that Red had taken for some kind of underpass of the Spaghetti Junction variety near Birmingham,U.K., 'have you anything to share with me?!' whether it was a question or a command was hard to tell, 'if you have I'll just take it away from you and you can travel on unmolested until you have something else I want,' it declared in a low reasonable tone.

 'That's completely unreasonable,' Robin protested.

 'Look, I'm trying to be a reasonable man here,' said the giant.

 'It's the 'Share if''' whispered Robin 'letme deal with it.'

 'Okay,' Red whispered softly back, 'I have nothing anyway.'

 'That's what he is, the 'Share if' of Nothingham, it's a town near here where nobody has anything because they had to 'share it' with him,' Robin jerked a thumb upwards at where he presumed the giant's head might be and, taking Red, much to her delighted surprise, bythe hand, dashed headlong between the giant's legs, breaking the tiny-tots world 200 metres record in the process -at least for the three-legged race, the giant perplexed by this sudden move, turning its head around ratrher too quickly for its own good and, suddenly feeling a bit dizzy, toppled over backwards, its shadow hurtling towards our terrified heroine and hero like a dark cloud of misfortune, until suddenly there was a huge crash and a burst of brilliant sunshine and they were free of the darksome forest, the giant 'Share if' lying stilled and broken in their wake and the door of Red's mum's house opening invitingly before them, her grandmother sitting knitting on a bench at a garden table waving at them and saying 'Hola! Thank you for doing the ironing,' and her mother looking quietly and thoughtfully out of her black little eyes in her round little face bearing a tray of delicious pastries and sweetmeats, while her father and brother, folding and unfolding their arms, looking at one another as if not knowing what to make of anything anymore, it was all so unpredictable, simply said 'Hola!' in unison and sat down together on a bench in the furthest part of the garden as if hopeful that this was all they'd be required to do for a good while yet.

 'Hola!' cried Robin, feeling a bit embarassed at the sight of this huge throng of people and edging his way back in the direction of the wood that was his home.

 'Hola!' cried Little Red Riding Hood, grabbing onto his sleeve and throwing him over the hedge and into the garden, 'See what I found in the forest!'

 'Can he speak or is he just going to lie there?' demanded her father.

 'Nnnff!' garbled Robin,a mouthful of soil preventing him from contributing to the discussion.

 'Notmuch,' said Red, 'but he knows how to flatten a mouse with a rock.'

 'Anyone who doesn't like computers can't be all  bad,' declared grandma wisely.

 'He's just a young hood, isn't he?' said her father, in a worried fatherly way.

 'So'm I,' said Red, 'we were made for each other, don't you think?' and the reluctant suitor, who was already dreaming up an escape plan involving a moonlight elopement,a rapid exchange of rings under the unholy auspices of Trya Fuck and a flight out of the county of Nothinghave with its policies of 'if you share we'll letyou live, but if you don't we won't!'

 'Let's share our love with each other,' said Red kindly, propping the coughing, spluttering and drooling Robin up against the fence amongst the rhododendrons where noone could see what they were doing.

 'If - ' Robin gurgled, spat and wretched a few times before vomiting bits of garden onto her smock.

 'Are you circumcised?' she demanded.

 'At birth,' he told her, 'I had an enormous penis but the doctors thought it would make me 'too cocky by half,' and worrying my mother about what the neighbours would think of her having a son with a humungous whang, they chopped it in half.

 'And thereby hangs a tail,' Red mused.

 'Who killed cocky Robin?'

 'At least they didn't castrate me too,' he murmured, caressing her hair, lips, cheeks and...cheeks.

 'Have you heard the AC/DC CD 'Ballbreaker'?' She glanced sideways at  his groin.

 'No,' he had to admit.

 'Good,' she said, 'and you never will, I promise.'

 He pressed lips to hers, which were firmly shut too, and would remain that way till she'd licked him into marriageable shape.

 

Robin Usher

 

robika2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

Love Bugs

 

'How can I tell the created from the uncreated,' MAP asked.

 He wasn't quite sure if the question had any validity or not. Analysts at the bio-labs insisted that there was a new breed of Subverter indistinguishable from human kind and with a 'hidden purpose'. It was his job to discover what that might be. But first he had to learn as much about this secret enemy as he could:

 'Any quirks, quarks, habits or imperfections?'

 The bio-analyst levelled ice-blue eyes and spoke, coldly clear, precisely accurate.

 'They forget to blink sometimes,' he momentarily pulled down the blinds on his own expressionless orbs, 'they have a tendency to repeat themselves...repeat...themselves,' he droned mechanically; and, of course, they don't fuck. They have the equipment, naturally,' he continued; or rather, unnaturally,' sky cool marbles permitted themselves a brief twinkle presumably designed to simulate merriment, 'these bods were grown in synth vats rather than Subverter host-wombs like the rest of that demon-spawn,' a dark cloud of remembered pain  passed swiftly across the cerulean imperiousness of his previously untroubled gaze, 'but they lack the appetite,' he licked  his lips significantly, 'that is,' he went on suddenly warming to the subject, 'their makers forgot to include socio-sexual conditioning when they sent them to school on the Hive-planet...'

 'They don't fuck.But they can. Is that what you're saying?'

 'My meaning was understandable I think,' obsidian points of no-light floating on a tranquil sea, 'sex is learnt and nobody bothered to tell them about it.'

 'What about the emotive centre?'

 'Dormant.'

 'Not dead, just sleeping, eh?'

 'I don't quite see the distinction.'

 'Trust me.There is one.' MAP strode across the tiled lab floor, paused perfunctorily before the door's servo-mechanism, watched as the wall's opacity became suddenly gaseous and - disappeared?

 'Welcome aboard Colonel!' A rooky Stardropper MAP noted, only one golden sun on the fresh-faced Marine's epaulets.

 'Thank you son. Ready for the Drop?' It always made the youngsters feel a bit special if he took an interest - so he did.

 'Thank you sir. Of course but...' the boyish grin faded for a moment before returning magnified a thousandfold 'we're happy to have you aboard, sir!'

 MAP strode down the ship's corridor in the direction of his work cube. It always made him feel special, boosting men's confidence just by his presence - a bit wearing though. That spacer's gleaming smile following him down F-deck. He'd never seen so many teeth in one head before. The boy must be an Osmond, one of the genetically inbred Rabidic Mormons, an Old Earth religious sect and one of the first casualties of the diaspora when the planet of their choice (the planet of the chosen they called it - quite literally too, they'd Christened it 'Chosen I') was reduced to cosmic dust by a Subverter-inspired solar rupture. The Osmond clan, an extended family of missionaries using their inherited facility for music-making to attract converts in a neighbouring solar system, were the only ones to survive the genocide. Now they dedicated their sons and daughters to the Drop. None of the band had played a note since. There were rumours that they sometimes practised without their music-making tools, silently, like mimes, and there was something else too. They were said to be developing a new instrument, presumably to celebrate that time when there would no longer be sufficient denizens of the Hive-planet to generate a Swarm.

 Arriving at his destination, MAP tried to throw an encouraging wink at his still-smiling subordinate. 'Be damned,' he breathed. Reactive to moving body heat, the glow tubes in the ceiling had reverted to preparatory mode, but MAP could still see the brilliant smile of his new friend shining like a lightship's beacon at journey's end. 'has to be a member of the Rabidic Chapter,' he muttered to himself as he keyed in his PIN, 'who else would use fluorescent white paint on their teeth.'

 Stepping rapidly through his cube's momently dilating portal, MAP used his cyborg component to scan the small space for anomalies. Acceptable levels of paranoia catered to, he eased into a facsimile of a priceless antique from Ancient Terría - a Flintstone's bean bag (mammoth size) - and heaved a grateful sigh. Those ground-to-ship jumps were always tiring, even if the teleport systems were functioning at optimum level (and his internal monitoring equipment would have warned him if the one Earthside hadn't been), but for some reason this had been especially taxing.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 The  convenience factor was, he reflected, no compensation for brain damage. He could afford to lose a few million - the chips in his head would always compensate - but your average Marine...ten maybe twelve jumps before the psych techs graded you 'Unfit for Active Service' and gave you a one-way ticket to anywhere (which, for a Space Marine used to travelling between galaxies in no-time, amounted to nowhere).

 MAP needed sleep more than he knew. Always striving for humanness, aware of the diurnal aspect of human consciousness, the technoid architects of his 'borg hemisphere had programmed this left-hand side of his mind to fulfil its compensatory regenerating function in 'snooze mode'. MAP slept.

 'Good Morning Colonel.'

 'Uunnhff.'

 'It's the 23rd of the month of March in the year 2437...and it's a beauty-full daaaay!'

 'Yaaarghhh!'

 MAP reached for his cube's joy globe. Sculpted in green and black bio-plas, it was designed to look like a Subverter Hive-egg and be hurled at the nearest available hard surface when it 'hatched' - like now.

 'Shutthefuckup!'

 'Wakey wakey! Rise and shine sir!'

 'Wha...?'

 MAP's sleep-befogged part-mind couldn't quite grasp the situation. He'd made the necessary manouveres:

 

1) Locate source of annoying sound -an egg, that is, Happy Radio FM.

2) Grab offensive noisy object.

3) Smash the bloody thing by bringing it into violent contact with something solid - in this case the top of his skull.

Q.E.D.? Apparently not.

 

 'Sun's up! Well, several actually. If you'd care to take a look out of your cube's view port, sir...' MAP groaned inwardly.He must've been assigned an orderly.

 'Should've put a DND signal into the compsole.'

 'Sorry sir?'

 'Do NOT Disturb!' MAP roared.

 'Yes sir. I see sir. Will there be anything else sir?'

 MAP,about to get out of bed and either take a shower or decapitate a disorderly orderly,threw aside his coverlet - and immediately either regretted it or didn't. It sort of depended...

 'Will that be all  sir?'

 'I'm not sure. I have a small (well, rather large actually) problem. Would you come over here and take a look at it for me please?'

 'Of course sir.'

 MAP pointed to the problem - and waited.

 'What's wrong sir?'

 'Can't you deal with it?'

 'I suppose so sir. If you tell me what you want me to do with it sir.'

 Oh no, not one of those. Twittering pseudo-virgins were always a pain in the arse. Still it might be fun to turn the situation around and become a pain in...

 'Would you like to take a closer look?

 The orderly bent closer, eyes staring unblinkingly, whether in wonder, homage, or genuine bemusement MAP didn't know - or care much.

 'A closer look? Closer look?

'What are you? A parrot? Come closer.'

'Closer. Closer.'

'Yes, dammit! Closer!'

 The orderly bent further, eyes seemingly rivetted to MAP's groin, mouth open in unfeigned perplexity and incomprehension. MAP reached up with his left hand and took hold of the lackey's lapel. With the other he grasped a handful of blonde curls and forcibly brought a somewhat surprised mouth to meet his. Pushing tongue between unresisting lips and teeth he proceeded to give mouth-to-mouth resucitation in the hope of awakening what would appear to be a lifeless corpse - at least in that area. After a rigorous oral examination,the orderly seemed to awaken to what was expected. Mouth met erection and slid inexorably down the shaft, widened to swallow MAP's swollen testes...

 'Uuunnnnhhh.'

 MAP scratched a spot on his forearm, kicking in his invisi-suit's laser system, made  a sweeping gesture with his hand in front of the girl's bobbing head - and kicked. The trunk of the orderly's body fell backwards onto plush white pile, spouting a fountain of gore. The head, eyes still wide in unfeigned amazement dripped softly crimson and, as MAP stood, flipped slowly, like a bodiless diver on the high-board. The tip of MAP's cock burned an angry red.

 'That was a close shave. Close shave,' he droned mechanically.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 The Chief of Security remained impassively impervious until MAP chose to indicate the cause of his disturbance.

 'Boy or girl,' the woman enquired while salaciously noting MAP's dishevelled appearance.

 'What's the difference?'

 'Just for the record Colonel,' bottle-green eyes narrowing to slits.'One of those - huh.'

 MAP turned to the Ship-to-Earth communication console.

 'Ship.Send a message. Begin. Marine Central. C-in-C. Subject. Subverter. New Breed. Programmed to kill when aroused. Sexually aroused,that is. Arousal has to be forced. Probable targets. Space Marines on shore leave. Message ends. MAP.'

 'Oh, one of those huh?'

 Something warm and wet embraced his still-aching stiffness, moving slowly with deliberation.

 'Sure you're not a new breed of Subverter?'

 'Huh?'

 

Robin Usher

 

robika2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

Mobile Armoured Personnel

 

It was an interesting profession for a lazy man. The Empire paid him a retainer to keep his services permanently on standby,and he spent 99% of the year sporting in various swimming pools (and avorting in various beds in various different positions) with the various beautifulwomen he met beside them.

He was  presently enjoying a brief sojourn on a holiday world famous for its completelack of interestin anything other than pleasure -which he wholeheartedly approved of.Lying next to him was one of the most delicious heavenly bodies in known space but, as he reached out to taste the fruits of his last night's labours, a sharp pain behind his forehead (and slightlyto the left of centre) focused his attention elsewhere.

 'MAP online. Code 9. Level 16. What the fuck do you want Isobel?'

 'How did you know it was me sweetie?'

 'Who else would stab a man above his left eye just to get him to notice  her? You know that stickpin inside my frontal lobe is for emergencies only.Like if'n I need tomake my body do something it thinks I can't -orthat I 'simply' don't want to.

 'Or if you need to use the psi power of the 'third-eye'?'

 'Quiet Izzie. You know that stuff's toppest secret. Anyway, I don't need it now. I can predict what will happen without it,' his tone suddenly hardened, 'unless you hurry up and tell me why you...um...called.'

 'Okay MAP. Here's the situation. There's a renegade Space Marine staying in an apartment block not far from you. Looks human but the genes are dirty. Savvy?'

 'Sure. Subverted.'

 'Yeah,and programmed - genetically speaking - to kill you.'

 'A gene command that specific? That's some programmer. Any time scale on this?'

 'Nope. Seems close - and you're the target. That's all we know. Oh, and one other thing -'

 A sudden burst of static cut short whatever Izzie had wanted to say. MAP breathed a silent prayer of thanks as the pain in his head went away. It felt like someone switched it off - as indeed they had. Suddenly a high-pitched whine sounded close by his ear.

 'Damned mosquito,' he thought irritably. Just about to slap the air with his hand, MAP froze. Sweat trickled fromhis brow as, careful not to move his head, he trurned his eyes to look at the source of the noise.

 Sure enough, an insect. A kind of fly, he observed. Not a mosquito.Probably harmless. Better check first tho'. He flexed his thumb joint and immediately felt again that stabbing pain inside his head. Then, his mind clearing, he had a vision of the tiny creature hurtling towards him with kamikaze intent.

 'Shitsucking flymole,' he cursed inaudibly. He didn't need a vision to see what those things could do. He'd seen guys' skulls drilled from stemto stern in three seconds by one of those evillittle mechanisms.They were as fast as the usual projectiles in terms of speed of impact, but it took a few moments for them to completely scramble an individual's brains before tunnelling out and returning 'home' (micro-organisms were - God Himself knew - difficult to make, and the technoids hadn't quite mastered the art of getting them to breed yet).

 MAP stared hard at the pseudo-creature for an instant and the timy gizmo exploded in a small shower of silica and plastic parts.

 'Lucky it wasn't booby-trapped.'

  He thought off the miniature laser installed in his head, scanning the poolside with the lens of his other eye (made on Japlanet,capable of examining the wing of a butterfly 2,000 klicks distant and,by means of its connection with that souped-up pineal gland of his, doing it through a mountain as well).

 Everything seemed normal - except for that! He slewed around, skewing rapidly to one side as, frantically churning the green chlorinated liquid, a black torpedo-shape became a blackmissile-shape and launched itself fromthe pool directly at the place where, nanoseconds earlier, MAP had lain resplendent with his latest sex toy. Unable to readjust to its target and - the thirst for blood wired into its circuitry - unwilling to abort, the Aquatooth sank its fangs into the belly of the blonde nubile and proceeded to revolve like a whisk beating up an egg. Flesh,blood, bone and,finally, brains (as the hideously artificial sea-monster made its way briskly up her spinal column) spattered the terror-stricken sun worshippers.

 'A bad time for them,' MAP fleetingly noted. 'What with all three suns being in the sky right now.'

 Then, shutting down his emotive centres with a furious act of will, he began to consider his options - all the while carefully monitoring the dying progress of the Aquatooth (chewers only had small power-packs; just enough to launch, bite, and spin a few revolutions). The next thing was simplicity itself.

 'Killhimbefore he kills you,' Izzie said in his head.

 He jumped and, finding that proved useful, kept moving in the direction of the hotel heliport.

 'What? Are you still in there you crazy bitch?'

 'Of course! I've still got a small-but-useful piece of information for you - big boy.'

 'You remembered?'

 'How could I forget?'

 'Well, the amount of stud muffins you get through in a month -'

'Okay,okay. Enough.' Her girlish laughter trilled like silver  bells.

 'The new data?'

 'Uh?'

 'Your Space Marine could be female.

 'Great. That's all I need.Another vicious woman.'

'How dare you sir!'

 'How do you know I1m referring to youmydove?'

 'It couldn't be anybodyelse.'

 'Too true.'

 'I hope you rot,' there was an audibleclick inside MAP'sright ear and he experienced instant loneliness.

 'Press on regardless' he told himself.'First things first and other platitudes.'

 He whistled for his hovercar, which came gambolling across to him like a red-and-chrome spring lamb - and exploded.

 MAP triggered his third eye - and went into overdrive. He didn't know why he did what he did,he just did it. Springing bacwards in order, he presumed, to minimize the risk of getting hit by pieces of Ford aircar, his body immediately rolled itself into a ball and bounced to one side. Then finding himself capable of volitional movement once more, MAP uncurled to observe his predicament.The lumpof flaming metal that used to be his best friend (thanks to an intelligent microchip, that is,one capable of hatred) had died instantaneously. MAP felt a pang of regret and the thing in his head kicked in. Leaping to his feet,his body sprinted into the fiery maelstrom, vaulting the white-hot remains, emerging from the pall of smoke breathing hard but with its eyes,due to cleer-plaz protection, keen and eager for prey. No sign. MAP returned to control his flesh.

 'That must be some babe,' he panted. 'I bet she [he?] packsmore dynamite between the sheets than those legendary Ta'uk chicks - literally.'

 His reverie was broken by a now-familiar whine and, without conscious thought, he snappedinto enhanced mode,flashburning the Flymole with a contraction of his laser-laden pupil.He felt the plasflesh of his fingertips rupture as the internal weapons' systems began activating automatically in response to some as-yet-unspecified threat. His eyes entered scanning mode.Movements ahead provoked a response from the hydraulics in his legs and he was propelled in the direction of - his quarry?

 Star-bomblets burst above him in a cascade of designed-to-be-blinding light. His optic centres had already shorted-out in prescient awareness of upcoming danger. Body still maintaining its headlong pursuit,tracking and navigating by means of the idetic memory chip that allowed his computer-mind to function much in the same way as its organic bat-sonar counterpart,MAP regained his 'normal' vision seconds later. Just soon enough because, as his built-in zoom told him,his adversary was now shouldering a portable yet-still-heavy-duty micro-missile-launching-bazooka with, he assumed, city-block destroying nuclear capability.Hands involuntarily reaching out as if to strangle an invisible opponent,digits extending claw-like to tear the air,MAP's onboard weapons' console selected the appropriate ammunition and, flexing its thumbs, his body emitted from its finger-ends a staggered series of projectiles designed to rip and shred skin,bone, and muscle tissue wherever they might  be encountered.

 'Seek and ye shall find!' MAP prayed aloud but softly. 'Seek and ye shall find.'

 A shriek of outrage registered upon his electronic sensing equipment as a 'possible' kill.His body began to pick up speed.He hurtled nearer to the sound of anger and pain.

 'Freeze maestro.'

 MAP's infra-red night-sight penetrated one of the gloomy access entryways that surrounded the parking area and zoomed in for a close-up.It was a hostage montage.A figure in the traditional powered-armour of the Space Marinesd (but with the distinguishing marks of the Order to which s/he had originally belonged carefully masked or erased) held another slenderer more obviously tenderer form which he recognized -and wished he hadn't!'

 'Izzie!'

 'Hold it sonny. One sharp move and girly-wirly gets it.'

 The figure menaced its pursuer with what he now saw was the only mutant attribute of an otherwise perfect human form,the huge foreclaw of a Subverter.

 'The venom can't have had time to take hold before the med-tecs got to her,' he mused. All she meant to the Swarm, he knew, was another host by means of which their Spawn might be propogated throughout human space. 'Poor cow.' He slowed to a halt and waited motionless.

 'Izzie?'

 'I've given her a paralysis drug.She'll stand there for days if necessary - unless the wind blows her over.'

 MAP noted the high-pitched whine that followed this statement and readied his eyes to track and burn the Flymole he anticipated would appear - but no. 'Christ!' The bitch's excuse for laughter,' he marvelled. 'What's the deal?' he said in a harsher voice.

 'No deals for you Imperial Scumsucker! Switch on your suit immobilizer and I'll leave the lady here for whoever comes looking for you both - if anyone can be bothered.'

 'And if I do?'

 'I blast you with a warper.'

 MAP blanched. Those things were not only lethal, they were agonizing. Basically, they'd been designed to bend a spaceship through space at  faster-than-light speeds (Einstein's equations had suggested that space would be warped by ships passing quickly through it,butthe reverse had turned out to be the case; it was the ships themselves that had to expand and contract like worms in order to use those gateways to the stars known to phsicists as 'anomalies' in the space-time continuum but which those who used them knew as 'wormholes'),but they could also turn a man inside  out in seconds.He'd seen men with brains for hair who could only see the steady accumulation of dandruff on the insides of their heads...

 'And if I don't?'

 'I blast her with a warper.'

 MAP began to think the code that would render him harmless.He's almost finished when the ajna chakra in his forehead, blinked, sat up, and took over.

 An intense beam of light flashed from it, bathing hostage and captor in a nimbus of blue fire, Izzie seemed to crumple and fold slowly into no-space. MAP's antagonist, on the other hand, simply found herself bereft of armour and lovely to look upon in her coal-black skin. Well, most of her.The claw of the Subverter bent back and nipped off her head. The corpse toppled. MAP came to.

 'Izzie,Izzie baby. Darling baby,' he sobbed.

 'No use crying over spilt milk - or a collapsed hologram for that matter' said a familiar voice in his head.

 'Izzie?'

 'None other.'

 'You rotten little... Why didn't you tell me it wasn't the real thing but that you were merely a holo shell of your former self?'

 'Now, let me see... How did that go? 'Baby. Darling baby'. Followed by real tears.'

 'You...You...'

 'Well, I had to know how you really felt, didn't I big boy?'

 'And the Subverter? Was she real?'

 'You'll never know.'

 Izzie transmitted the final digit of the immobilizer code.MAP slumped inside his armour like a puppet with its strings cut.

 'I suppose I'd better send a recovery team,' mused the brain in the saline tank with the nutritube jacked into its cerebral cortex -MAP's suit remote was currently jacked into its frontal lobe.

 The body'd been killed in a Subverter raid six months before.MAP had been activated  to dealwith a problem light years away from Marine Central. No-one had known how to break the news.They'd sent vidz and vox but, until they could generate a clone from Izzie's cells, this would have to be enough to remind MAP of their love.

 The brain sensed aslight disturbance in the air above the tank.It sought to think its external gear into readiness, but it was already too late. There was a sound like the rush of water over sharp rocks and a claw emerged from the newly-engineered 'anomaly' in the fabric of space-time...

 

Robin Usher

 

robika2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

Mythopoea

 

`Mythopoea,a strange word that,`  MAP mused appropriately. The greek concept of `muse` being the topicfor discussion amongst his most recent creation, the Mythologists and Philosophers (MAPs) gathered beneath the eaves of the Graeco-Roman Order of Time-Travel Orphans`new frat house `GROTTO`.

 `Words have magic in them, remember that,`said one of the `Orphans`, a bushy-bearded goat-eyed figure with tufts of red hair sprouting from his nostrils like the flarings of a dragon just finished throwing flame at a still-smouldering hamlet.

 `Myth - appear!` he said, waving the fingers of his right hand in what was barely understandable, in the swift complexity of his dexterity, as a deliberate symbolic pattern of digital movementthat, recorded and decoded, would reveal the secrets behindwhat had just been conjured into being; for there, in their midst, wearing a secretive smile and darting a forked red tongue between the twin points of its sharply elongated canines, sitting slightly forward (upon the now apparently solid air throughwhich it had so spontaneously emerged)to prevent the stem of the tail that cracked back and forth over its shoulder in impatient impish gless(the diamond of its tipseeming to take a perverse delight in occasionally entwining about the slender waist of its owner to faun upon the treasures concealed beneath the peachily purple furye of its perfectly perfect derriére. Laughing silently, tail now snugglingbetween its legs, the  she-devil threw back her mane of reddish black hair, revealing small apple tight breasts, the pointy nipple cones thusting skywards as,throat bared to the heavens, the glee-child, legs now thrown apart in abandonment, exposed the root of its problem, diamond wedge disappearing into Aphrodite`s Afrit like a serpent into its lair.

 The apparition hung in the airof the room for a few more seconds, then vanished,leaving the gathering breathless and expectantly astonished.

 `Creatures of myth are what we call archetypes` said a white-haired gentleman with brightly blue eyes and redlyfreckled pale white skin,` which as any philosopher worth his salt would tell you,are timeless.`

 `Meaning what?`asked MAPperemptorily, still tormented by the vision of the devilish damösel.

 `Well, archetypesare those psychic contentsof the human mind which, universal and eternal, can be found in the writings, art, works, and indeed all belief systems or cyclic `patterns of creativity`; in fact, as the great philosopher-psychologist Carl Jung once explained, expounding on Plato`s theories of `ideal forms`,` he paused a moment and was rewarded for his patience with a brief spattering of applause from wizened palms of wizards, palmists, wise hard psalmists, wise-ass pharmacists (alchemists) and curly white haired pessimists, the rest merely nodding sagely and making oddly significant gestures with arm,leg, foot and hand, `we all exist as ideas in the `Mind of God`, which means that, in archetypal terms, some of those walking around on God`s earth are timeless, universal, and eternal - living archetypes, creatures that have lived, and will live, alongside humanity as guides, teachers, heroes,poets, artisans, rulers, magicians, courtesans, actors, genii...immortal and forever.`

 `Please,`MAP blinked, clicking rounded eyes back into the machine calculator orbs his Space Marine brethren were oh-so-familiar with,thanks to his habit of enforcing an order, when some rookie SM`s sloth showed more recalcitrance than fatigue, by administering a stinging eye-to-eye jolt from his laser-optics, `how do you recognize an archetype?`

 `Hrrrmph!` `said` an ebony-skinned far-from-archetypal Ethiopian jew with golden locks, a button nose with lenseless spectacle frames perched on the end of it as an affectedly affectatious affectation,`nowadays it`s nota simple matter - allow me to explain...`

 `Greece was known as the `Cradle of Western Civilization for a reason, it was there that they first began to systematically `catch` the Dryads,Nymphs, Naiads, oreads, Fauns,Satyrs, Bacchi, Sileni, Cabiri, the small gods, the Creative spirits of Tree, Stream, River, Stone, Field, Hill, Valley, Forest, Dell and Cave.`

 `But aren`t all these creatures `figments of the imagination`, as it were?`

 `Creatures of the imagination, certainly!` said the Ethiop, `some hold they are actually produced by imagination; either that of God or powerfully creative individuals, such as those known as alchemists,magicians,psychics,phantasists and occultists - hence the legends of homunculi, succubi,familiars, psychopomps (spirit guides), Fata Morgana and daemons; or groups of individuals,like Christians, the archetypal figure of Christ, as it were, appearing or being born out of a collective need for a spiritual guide or teacher; or Buddhists, the transformation of Prince Siddhartha arising from a similar need.`

 `So humans can be turned into archetypes?`

 `Not exactly MAP, but the `Conversions` of individuals like Saulof Tarsus on the Road to Damascus or Syent Robika of World Gates represent the activation of a transforming archetype within their psyches which, as it were, turns them into what the collective consciousness requires.`

 `But the individual so stransfigured has, ever afterwards, all the properties and abilities of any other archetype in the `Mnd of God`?`

 `Of course, but this New Creaturein God is `of the future`, that is, it has no past, unlike the eternals who are,of course, existent, have existed, and still exist, from eternity.`

 `Hmmm. So how does allthis help us in our concern with time-travel?` MAP wondered.

 `Because such creaturesare eternal they exist outside time, that is, time has no hold upon them, which means that, just as we might walk from one room to another, so they are able to move from one time zone to another, simply by deciding to go forwards or backwards.`

 `And how do they know which way to go?`

 `They either follow futuristic `signposts`, `technological signposting` we call it; or historical `signposts`, `antique signposting` is the name we gave to that.`

 `How does it work?`

 `You just follow your nose MAP, your intuition, as it were, and look for a path; let`ssay you chooseAkenhaten`s Egypt, you just focus in on Egyptology; signs, symbols, imagery, archetypes and - most importantly - mythology, because archetypes are, fundamentally, creatures of myth for reasons which I`ll explain later -`

 `- But that won`t take you into the past, surely? It might take you into a different reality or parallel universe, but time-travel..?`

 `It will if you`re an archetype,a Hamadryad, Sidhe, Nibelüng, Elf, Tünde, or if zou Convert or experiencesome other spontaneously transfiguring transformation through which you become timeless and eternal, a consciously active participant in the Almighty's Allüseeing Omnipresence.'

 'So, why are archetypes, 'fundamentally, creatures of myth'?'

 'The aborigines of Australia speak of the 'Dream Time' in which they once lived, a timeless statein which, as the Aussies say, there were 'no worries' because, let's say, for example,one of them would hunt but couldn't 'make a kill', then he could go back to a 'place- time' where an animal had once been slain, find that carcass and prepare a meal from it.'

 'So,why bother hunting at all?'

 'It was 'in their blood', they liked to do it; but when there was no game, they could return to a 'place' where there had been some.'

 'But that doesn't explain why archetypes are creatures of myth?'

 'The interpretation of dreams is a psychologist's primary task in therapeutic analysis because they contain archetypalmaterial that 'explaoins'  the developmental progress of the individual, for example,a Wise Old Man figure might simply appear during 'sleep time' to suggest a course of action to be followed during what the aborigine's would paradoxically call 'Dream Time',that is 'real time' to us; or a drama between archetypal figures might be played out in a dream that, interpreted, would reveal the sleeper's fears,hopes and needs, and suggest a way in which they might be resolved.'

 'Developmental storytellers,as it were; I see. But what of living archetypes?'

 'An excellent description MAP, we'll make a Philosopher King out of you yet.'

 'I'd rather be fucking,' quipped MAP.

 'Yes, well. Hrrmph! Living archetypes function in the same way as those that appear in sleep time, existing in that 'Dream Time' in which the abos once lived before they 'lost their inheritance', as it were,to the European colonists with their mechanistic-deterministic approach to the world as a cause-and-effect mechanism like some kind of wind-up clockwork machine in which time progressed linearly and in one direction only - forward.

 'So it was the Europeans logical rational attitude that destroyed the Dream Time and made it impossible to Time Travel?'

 'It wasn't that exactly MAP.It was the future that beckoned, archetypal creatures existing Outside of Time were necessary to the Future of Humankind, so plans were laid to 'trap' them and make use of their talents. It's difficult to make use of a physicist who, for example, could one day walk out of his laboratory, step into a scene from ancient Greece and, not come back!'

 'Are all scientists 'living archetypes'?'

 'The best probably are. Einstein almost certainly, Leonardo too, Wittgenstein, Heinlein, Hawking S., Usherobin, Watson E., Usher-Watson R., Boros E., Uroboros, Usher-Boros F., Cerberus...they all have a peculiar quality of mind that sets them apart,probably,because each reached a point in their lives when they had what we've called a 'conversion experience'; remember Archimedes, the great Greek thinker who,upon making some startling discovery,leapt from his bathtub shrieking 'Eureka!'?'

 'Uh-hum.'

 'At that moment he 'crossed the rubicon', became a 'living archetype' capable of -amongst other things - Time Travel. Unfortunately, of course, he was so enthused by his discovery that it claimed all his attention and, naturally, when he and it came to the attention of those whose job it was to 'trap' such 'creatures' as Archimedes had become,his potential was drastically curtailed and restricted to 'laboratory conditions', imprisonment basically, within an environment that afforded possibilities for intense concentration upon his discovery and its applications for the future of humankind, a one-room cell or a research institute, it makes no difference; in all but name, Archimedes and other genii like him are 'concentration camp' survivors.'

 'And what of the eternals, those living archetypesthat were, are and will be?'

 'Well, of course, Archimedes,Einstein, Michaelangelo, Usher-Boros F., and Boros-Usher G... I'm not boring you I hope?'

 'Not much,' MAP grinned, 'please go on.'

 'Well, as I say, these, er...eternals, when they experienced what was called 'enlightenment' buring the Renaissance or 'nirvana' by Buddha, that is,that place 'beyond the opposites' of past and future, the time-traveller's Eternal Now, became what is, was and will be; but these Original Forms, Plato's eidelons, exist in the 'Mind of God' from the Beginning of Creation when YAHWEH said 'Let There Be...' and there was 'light', 'hard light' in the shape of complex wave forms, Original Creatures, dreamt into Being by the Creator, exisiting in the 'Dream Time',  Paradise before the Fall, the Golden Age of Greece before Aristoteleian 'either-or'  logic came to determine the future of civilization.'

 'How so? Wasn't Aristotle a 'living archetype' too?'

 'Probably MAP, but it was Time for the Dream to End,logic was to be Enthroned as King and technology, based on binary codes, in which a thing can be either this or that and not 'both at the same time', as in that nirvanic state beyond the opposites of positive and negative, backwards and forwards,past and future,  the Erternal Present, that is, the Age of Technology with its 'computer systems',its pluses and minuses (+/-), its on/off modes, its either this or that which would turn the Dream into a Nightmare.'

 'I don't quite see the connection,' MAP puzzled.

 'Forget preconceptions. Because past and future are, from the point of view of 'living archetypes' illusory and there is only the Eternal Now - as the Buddhists say, 'life is an illusion, a dream', the past is the future; or,in other words,  technology, in a curiously paradoxical way, is actually preventing the future from happening.'

 'What do you mean?'

 'Well,' said the mythologicalphilosopher (shouldn't that be philosophical mythologist? - ed. [whose imagination is this? - author]), let's take Greece's Golden Age as an example -'

 'Let's...' MAP was beginning to feel a little irritated by the philosopher's labyrinthine circomlocutions.

 ' - the Greeks didn't develop their sciences out of thin air, they had help.'

 'From 'living archetypes'?'

 'Yes. Now, remember.It was in Greece that the first hesitant steps were taken -in European terms -towards a rational understanding of the nature of the universe, that is, a movement away from 'Dream Time' and into 'Linear Time' with its regimentation, order, control - you see?'

 'I think so,' MAP nodded in what he hoped would be interpreted as 'sagely' behaviour.

 !So the Creatures of the Dream, the 'living archetypes', the inhabitants of the Golden Age were -still- dreaming,at the mercy of the New Logic, the Rationalists, Science in short.'

 'I don't quite follow...' MAP shook his head in a way that he hoped would be interpreted as a sagely desire for illumination rather than the feeble-mindedness of a dullard.

 'If you like, the Dreamers in the Dream Time ceased to Dream Themselves and were Dreamt by those with Greater Consciousness,the New Scientists.'

 'I still don'r see...' MAP stared at his shoes dolefully.

 'The 'living archetypes',it was discovered, were truly Creatures of the Imagination,that is,they were subject to the imaginations of those withmore highlydeveloped ego-consciousness. All the Greek thinkers had to do in the early days of their Arts and Sciences was pose a problem,mediatate upon it, and one or more of the Eternals would turn upand,in some shape orfashion,solve it -eitherdirectly through the passing on of information or gifts; or indirectly through the enacting of dramas, rituals,scenes -which they themselves would interpret in order to distil its essentialmeaning and further the course of human knowledge.'

 'You mean?' MAP ventured a stab in the dark.

 'Exactly,you surprise me young man by the depth of your perception,the first plays, dramas,concerts -'live performances' -were played out by 'living archetypes' spontaneously in response to the imaginative requirements of the Greek thinkers.To begin with Aristophanes, Sophocles, Euripedes et al -all they had todo was sit in an open space and wait for an idea to occur to them.After a while the 'helpers' would arrive,perform the master's imaginative sequence,then disappear,leaving him to write down what he'd seen - psychology was born in this way too, the interpretation of dreams was, originally, born out of the interpretation of the meaning of what the 'living archetypes' would perform before the Greek master's for their mutual 'entertainment',the first psychologists were,if you like, drama critics.'

 'I've  heard the term psycho-drama.' MAP assumed a sagelike demeanour once more.

 'Such aind,' the philosopher'seyes rolled around in their sockets which, framedby curly locks of gold and set in ebon,gave the impression of seagulls trapped in burning oil, 'you could probably use it to interpret the world in archetypalterms as the Greek psychologists did; they would wander around looking at thingsand people,and by interpreting what they saw,whether in the marketplace, at the theatre, in the Acropolis or the Parthenon,gain an understanding of what ailed an individual or society as a whole and provide solutions for its remedy -and out ofthat SocialSciences were born.

 'Fascinating,' said MAP because, to his surprise, he was fascinated.

 'It waslike that everywhere. The Greeks would first play with ideas and their 'littlehelpers' would perform for them their solutions; sometimes the solutions weren't that obvious,of course,but things proceeded along nicely in this fashion for a long time and everyone was happy. It was known as the Golden Age of Greek Civilization, but the True Philosopher's Gold was already lost by this time,the Eternal Now of the  Time Traveller's Dream Time and,of course, the Silver Age of Rome was to come.'

 'Is that bad?'

'It didn't have to be MAP,but there were already abuses and misuses in the Greek world that became positivelypandaemonic during the Roman Empire.Caligula and Nero, Emperors of Rome who developed the Orgyand the Games into often terrifying spectacles at the expense of many living archetypes; satyrs and nymphs who had walked into the houses ofthe Greeks to make love and be madelove to in spontaneous fulfilment of the erotic fantasies of those dwelling within, were captured, enslaved and made to perform bestial acts,'assisted' with drugs and implements of torment and torture; heroic figures,who'd emerged from nowhere to fight alongside the 600 Spartans at Thermopylae to prevent the Persian King Xerxes - with his million strong army - from entering Greece and destroying Athens before the rest of the federated states could muster their forces, these living archetypes -  Achilles, Menelaus, Agamamnon, Ulysees, to name but a few of the most famed - would be forced into the Arena to fight each other in the Games for the pleasure of Caesar, to 'discover' heroes if none could be found, to 'make' heroes, transfiguring them through battle, transforming those that weren't into those that were living archetypes, and the naiads, fauns, cabiri, the muses, the inspirers of the artists, the artisans, the thinkers; these would be enslaved, made captive, forced to produce what previously they'd given freely, ideas for new technologies, weapons, strategies, techniquesof warfare to maintain the Empire, the Glory that was Rome!'

 'Why didn't the 'helpers' just flee off back into the past and the Dream Time?' MAP's eyes focusing on a distant never to be glimpsed scene.

 'Many tried, of course. But they were 'caught',trapped, 'hoist by their own petard', as it were, no longer able to participate in the DreamTime,corrupted,awoken, questioning, eager to participate in the unfolding of the future and,if not, imprisoned, forced to help where none was offered, made to work when none of them wanted to and, indeed,when circumstances were such that they shouldn't have to, and addicted, dependent on drugs,people,pets, families, social fabric, false love, sadistic masters who turned them into masochists...it was a Tragedy.'

 'So,yes I see.AmI right in guessing that, in the Golden Age, livng archetypes were 'just like that', but in the Silver Age - and thereafter - they were created by circumstances, either deliberately or by chance - like Christ, Jung, Einstein, Pele, Kron of Ktar, Robika the Red - '

 'Yourself?'

 MAP just smiled.'Robert A.Heinlein et al?'

 'That's about right I'd say, yes. But that's where the problem begins - each of these mighty personalities experienced some kind of 'conversion' process whereby they became superhuman - Nietsche's übermensch -and began to do wonders, which brought them to the attention of Authority and, before they knew where they were,they'd been 'clamped',placed within a social straitjacket from which they'd never escape, whatever blessings they conferred upon their 'Fellow Man' - their full potential could never be realized, would never be allowed to be realised; they would never be Dream-Time Traveller's,Paradise Lost would not be Regained.

 'Except through the future.'

 'Brilliant,dear boy.Absolutely brilliant. You'll go a long way.'

 'I've been to Tazenda and back.'

 'Where's that?'

 'Out on the Galactic Rim - 'Star's End'.'

 'Oh, that,' the philosopher looked vaguely disappointed,'I was thinking more along the lines of a chair in the department.'

 'I'm flattered,' MAP wasn't, 'but I prefer to sit in the Commander's Compsole Chair at Corps Command Centre.'

 'I see, C.C.C.C.C.C...'

 'That's a bad stutter you've got there prof.'

 'Yes. I see - '

 '..?'

 'I see, yes. Well, I suppose it would be expecting rather a lot to have you give up a position as Supreme Commander of Allied Space tolecture on the pros and cons of Platonic dialogues?'

 '..?'

 'Yes,well.To return to our subject.The past as the future is a complicated concept, made doubly complicated by the fact that much of the available technological hardware is usedto monitor, control, and prevent its creators from escaping,as Steven Spielberg once observed, Back to the Future, aparadox because, if the future is to happen, living archetypes will be there, whether they travel forwards or backwards, because that paradisal Golden Age is the future, eternal Eden to which the 'magic of technology allowed the Fugitives to return, jump back and forth between the far present and the further future that is the past, to build hidden bases in the Golden Age, to Create an Age of Light,to make reality produce what was required when it was required, apples from trees where no apples could be seen - or trees, to turn water into wine (in rivers), create architectural structures from nothingness, perform complicated psycho-dramas geared to the needs of the age because the psychological profile of the era had already been mapped,as had that of the great thinkers; Aristotle, Plato, Sophocles,Aristophanes, Heroditus, Archimedes et al, but it would be more fun tolet them think that their imaginations were producing what they thought of as their 'little helpers' performances,although it did help them to feel encouraged to really try to think for themselves and later they could do simple mathematics and alchmicalhealing,which would in turn result in the Sciences of Computer Systems Analysis and Bio-Mechanical Engineering that would explain Chaos Theory, decode the g-gnome, and allow 'hard light' quantum mechanics to engineer reality so that the Dream-Time Travel was once more possible and a hungry youth in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, bored with the produce around him,could stepthrough anarchway and pluck grapes from a hillside near Corinth,make love with a naiad beside the streamof which she was the goddess - permit obtained; stamped, returned and forgotten about for two hundred years - before going home to dream of a long-legged blonde-haired blue-eyed girl with a silver flute and a total unconsciousness of his very existence.

 'Very romantic.'

 'Roman antiques are one of my specialities,' said the prof showing no signs of having heard MAP at all, ''Roman Antics' on CD Romperformedby Sidhes is one of my treasured possessions.'

 'I like watching Sidhes on my Pixie, I mean CDs on my PC,' MAP volunteered,entering into the spirit of the dialogue, 'but I1d like to know more about this quantum mechanical engineering of the past that was in the future that was always present.'

 'Well, I think you know the basics, that is,the idea that light particles travel only in straight lines when you're not looking, but when we do they choose from a plethora of alternative paths,which constitute alternative possible worlds or realities brought into being by human consciousness, and that the quantum physicists' psycho-physicians found that,bychanging human consciousness, these changed humans -Changelings they called them - could enter into those possible alternate universes.'

  'Yes,I understand that much,' MAP tried to ooze sageliness.

 'Well,it was discovered that,as consciousness could collapse the wave forms that constituted reality,so changing it or adapting it to suit the individual,so it was possible to collapse what were described as 'phantom waves'.Let me explain - '

 'I wish you would,' said MAP, staring at his shoes despondently.

 ' -each of us is a wave form, but so are trees and flowers,less complicated,of course,but -'

 'Yes,yes. Go on.'

 '-well, Chiromancers -the name comes from the word 'chirality',which means 'handedness' and has to do with the 'science' of right-handedness and left-handedness, the Romans,for example,thought that left-handed people were evil magicians, 'left' is sinister in Latin and dexter is 'right', from which we get the word 'dexterity' or 'dexterous',both words having importance in terms of Chiromancy,which is the magical act of Creating Something Out of Nothing, which is what the quantum mechanics were trying to do with their 'phantom waves',which turned out to be what generations of mediums and psychics had been thinking of as ectoplasm and ectomorphs,neo-creations and neo-creatures they might properly be termed, the idea being that,either by using a Chiromantic light wand or a finely tuned optic laser, 'phantom creatures/creations' could be brought into reality by collapsing the 'wave form' that constituted their ghostly existence,having first determined what you wanted to 'conjure up'.'

 'As simple as that?'

 'Why make life more complicated than it already is?'

 'Just so,'  said MAP unconsciously quoting Mr Kipling

 'Do you like cakes?' asked the philo.

 'Only exceedingly good ones,' MAP told him.

 'I wish I had some,' he said,and a plate of faerie cakes appeared out of thin air,plonked themselves down in his lap  and the pair began to eat.

 'No light wands or optic laser then?' MAP grinned.

 'No, I'm a new model,a Neuromancer - all I haveto do is think of what is required and it appears.'

 'I'm interested,' said MAP interestedly.

 'Let's take a trip to the Psycho-Physic lab,' suggested the sophist.

 

                                                                                    *

 

 It had been a relatively simple eye-op, no anaesthetic, a minute adjustment to his 'borg sensors,a micro plasma bolt sent jolting down the fibres of his optic cabling, and a 'magic' ingredient from an eye-dropper,which turned out to be some kind of brain fluid previously extracted from two-headed Geminian two-heads but now being synthesized in chemicalcompanies from BP in Budapest to PB in Pesty Buddah, that is, Polluxian Betelgeuse Inc. in the Polluxian systems second city on Shagaslagor II.

 He'd been let loose about an hour or so ago and was presentlz following a trail that he hoped would lead him to the Temple of Karnak in Egzpt at the time of the Pharaoh Akenhaten who, as legend had it, was the last king to try and introduce Worship of the One True God there - albeit in the shape of a Ra-esque sun disc. He'd begun simply enough; pyramids, sun symbols, holiday brochures, observing a few girls passing by with Tutankamen death mask brooches, ankhs, scarabs etc., and then he'd wandered into one of those Old Curiosity shops -straight out of a novel by Dickens -complete with a two-leggedOld Curiosity who,after commenting on the inclement unpredictability of the weather, offered him a 'fisherman's friend', some pungent horror marketed as a cold remedy and arriving in tomb grey lozenge format,which he'd promptly palmed and stuck inside his left ear while pretending to chew and swallow.

 'We have a range of interesting antiques from our very own Earth,' the bow-legged baldy with two teeth, both black and too visible, leered expansively and gestured toward a pile of well-thumbed erotica, the thumb prints visible on each and every porno-disc that could be seen in the two-metre high stack, 'and from allover the solar system as well as a few genuine rarities,' the myopic victim of glaucoma and sclerotica leered once more through lenses that gave the impression of a bullfrog about to perform elastic feats with its tongue, 'such as this Tridentaltoothpick,' he brandished a piece of metal encased within a sheathe of ivory which, he informed MAP, who remained rather dubious about it, was made from the central tooth of the Tridental who had owned both scabbard and pick, it having lost its bite when an Amoeboid Neptunian involved in some kind of fracas with one of the Space Corps Prostitutes,  had catapulted the SCP girl towards a passing Tridental, hitting it smack between the incisors and knocking out its sole molar. The Tridental carrying its sword-stick disguised as a completely redundant and unnecessary, under the circumstances, toothpick,had vowed to track down the guilty Amoeboid and make sure that it never reproduced. Privately, it'd decided to let bygones be bygones and present both scabbard and toothpick as a token of friendship between the Amoeboid and Tridental communities in the hope that the two races could jointly overcome what neither had been able to deal with alone,that is, the Exploding Egg Birds of the South, the name speaks for itself, who'd instigated a reign of terror over the whole of Neptune for a thousand centuries. Tridentals, for example, had developed  extremely low foreheads (rather like Wayne Rooney) to preven their eyes fromlooking up at the sky,or to prevent them from being seen when they did, because the response to a glance upwards from their luminescent green-yellow pupils was an Exploding Egg Bird dropping another one,the choices and chances for the Tridental target then being few indeed, either it took a direct hit on the top of its skull, or it attempted to catch the egg in its teeth before it exploded, the hazard,of course, being that the Tridentalmightmiss, swallow the hurtling package and become a walking time bomb which the Exploding Egg Birds of the South could detonate at will,somaking the unlucky Tridental avictim of ostracisation and persecution until it wandered over to the Southern regions and demanded pity from the Exploding Egg Birds who would promptly explode the egg inside and laugh about it amongst themselves for a generation or two.The Amoeboids, of course, couldn't care less. They thought it was a good joke too and were planning to pretend to join forces with the Tridentals only in the hope of implementing their own joke which was to hang around Tridentals and provoke attacks from Exploding Egg Birds by saying things like 'What's that up there?' or 'Is that a Federation ship?' and 'Watch out for that Exploding Egg Bird, I mean Exploding Bird Egg!' so persuading the Tridentalsto look skywards and attract EEBs who would plop their nasties down onto them like pigeons in Trafalgar Square only to be surprised by a bunch of Amoeboids standing underneath and bouncing the bombs back at them off their jelly-like forms. After a few weeks the Exploding Egg Birds were extinct,and a year or so later the Tridentals, having contracted some dreadful form of dysentry thanks to the slimy attentions of their Amoeboid friends, had also expired, their leader, a Tridental withonly two teeth,the central molar having been lost in some long forgotten Great Struggle of the past, making a last stand against the giggling uncontrollably  Amoeboids, waving a toothpick and spluttering, 'I know you're out there,youmight all look the same,but I know who it was,' but he'd been summarily convicted of racism and been stoned until his other teeth fellout and he'd fallen over never to move again. And about a week later the entire Amoeboid Neptunian community, bored and with noone to play any more jokes on, committed mass suicide in the hope that they'd be taken up into heaven by a passing comet,and then nobody laughed except God who could 'see the funny side'.

 The Dickensian owner of the antiquarium, observing MAP's disinterest, remembered something he'd just received an hour or so ago and, not especially enthusiastic about its merit, had deposited it in the back of the premises amongst a pile of similarly useless articles. Fetching it forth,he placed it on a small oak table before the Great Man and - waited.

 'What is ir?'

 'Beats me.'

 'It looks like a beetle with a funny hat,' said MAP, placing the idol on the palmof his hand and seeing that the artist had anthropomorphised its creation, giving it a little chair; well, a rather big chair actually, more like a throne, and not one hat but two, a red 'topper', as it were, without a rim - or top for that matter -and being slightly wider at the front towards the hollowed out top end than it was at the base, the overall effect being one of a paper party hat about to fall forawrd over its wearer's face; except that the gravity of the statuette was such that laughter was somehow taboo in relation to it,and besides in the 'hat fullof hollow', was a secondary creation in white, a piece looking something like the 'bishop' in chess.

 'It's the double crown of ancient Egypt worn by a sacred scarab, symbol of rejuvenation, reincarnation and rebirth. I must have it!' MAP exclaimed like a delighted schoolboy and,handing over a few Venusian credits from his belt pouch, wandered off with his prize into the noonday streets.

 The sun was bright,  MAP thought to himself as he moved briskly thrrough the thronged walkways clutching the tiny stone idol which,still preternaturally cold to the touch, seemed to offer an insectoid comfort to his sun troubled mind. There were just too many people,he felt, head swimming from the heat and the claustrophobia; he had to cool off somehow,get away from these gibberers, leerers, gapers - blindly he stumbled towards a gap suddenly opening in the midst of the swarming faces, 'petals on a wet black bough' appearing in his mind from somewhere, a poem by Pound he realized, an Imagist perception of a throng of people emerging from the Paris Metro,their faces turning up towards the night lights of the city; how curious to be so lucid on one level while so helplessly incoherent on another, he mused as, legs collapsing beneath, he fell against a wooden oblong,plain and without visible opening mechanisms, fell and slid through a space that materialized as the no-door swung surreptitiously and shut behind its newest captive.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 MAP awoke in light, which surprised his subconscious mind, because it had led him to expect inky blackness, and the awareness that, behind the 'door' that wasn't a - 'corridor'? Quickly his mind flashed back to previous encounters with such phenomena; there'd been a period during his youth when Dr.Lucy Fir had introduced him to the 'cold spaces', corridors between and within worlds that he'd been priveleged to see on occasion, could this be one of those? He remembered the coldly soothing scarab and found it still clenched in his fist, still cool and still performing its therapeutic function of instilling cool peace and tranquility.Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the narrow 'chamber' thatstretched up into the distance abaout as far as he could imagine,MAP found himself to be hungry and,waving a finger at a more dense patch of light than could be discovered elsewhere, said 'breakfast' and a tub of yoghurt, freshly opened and with a small silver spoon already deep inside, plumpeditself down into the sawdusted earth.

 'Thanks MAP,' said MAP and began to eat.

 Half-an-hour later, walking down the apparently never-ending corrido, MAP came to another door-in-a-wall,the legend 'Dr Lucy FirT.t' ringing clear and sweet in his brain like the sound of his mother's doorbell when he'd stopped by on leave from SMtraining centre in 'floater city' New Chicago.The door had a handle which,upon being turned by the room's occupant, exposed a petite redhead with green eyes,laughing eyes, almost invisibly swelling breasts, no waist to speak of -and thigh high plastic stiletto-heeled boots in lurid day-glo' yellow.

 'You haven't changed a bit,' said MAP, catching her by the waist and lifting her up to be rigorously kissed.

 'Neither, I1m delighted to say, have you,' Lucy returned, trying to get her breath back and producing a mirrored compact to quickly check on her coiffure before treating MAP to a cold lookof obsidian,'and where've you been? I've been waiting for you to come back here since 2027.What time is it now?'

 '2115. Forty-eight minutes isn't so long.'

 'It isn't, but forty-eight years is!'

 'Sure,but you haven't been waiting here for 48 years,have you?'

 'Haven't I?' she glared demurely, if such a thing is possible.

 'No, you've been here for 48minutes.I admit that I haven't seen you since 2027 A.D., but SM Command is a 'busy bee' these days and 2115 is the best I could do.'

 'Still, 48 minutes!'

 'I didn't even expect to be here at all,so be grateful it's not 2345!' MAP roared.

 'I thought we had a date,' Lucy pouted. 'Oh, well,it might've been someone else.Still,it's probably in the future somewhere.'

 'I remember. It was in 1018 when we were working on the Viking project in Denmark and you went berserk over their king's refusal to allow NASA, the New Avalon Space Angels,access to one of their ships' graves, because he said it contained 'precious relics' which you were sure was a euphemism for UFO technology but,as it turned out, was actually a euphemism for plague.'

 'Um.Well. They didn't mind so much.We cured the diseases, only a few dead Danes and they were impressed by my Berserker persona so much that they gave me a two-headed axe and told me to prepare for Hasrtings in 1066. That's , letme see, at approximately 1351 in SM Chronometrics,remind me to be there,won't you?'

 'I'll be sure to. It was the funniest sight I'd ever seen, you foaming at the mouth, projectile vomiting,whirling a two-handed two-metre high broadsword in every direction except forwards and all this under a horned helmet three sizes too big that only allowed you to see your own sandals -ridiculous.'

 'They said I was a good dancer tho'.'

 'If they'd been playing music,maybe. But they were in the middle of a kingship struggle,the only reason you survived was because half of those called upo to attack you were in a state of paralysed disbelief, the other half couldn't stop laughing.'

 '1351 did I say?' said MAP consulting his Chronometric display and making a few rapid adjustments.

 'Oh,don't get huffy.Look, tell me what you're doing here, letme help if I can,' dimples in cheeks and, well...dimples, 'and I1ll see you in 1066 or later,which will probably be sooner.'

 'Suits,' said MAP

 'Later,' said Dr Lucy Fir,dimpling deliciously.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 They'd chatted  for a while about 'old times', Carthage mainly, then he'd played Aeneas to her Dido, well, actually,he'd placed a rather large vibrating Dildo inside her Anus, which about amounted to the same thing if his memories of Ancient Africa would be what he thought he could remember; then, of course, he'd placed an even larger penis inside her and moved it around for an hour or two until, baring her teeth like some rabid too-humped camel (shouldn't that be two-humped? - ed. [you make your jokes and I1ll make mine -author ] ), dildo still diddling, she'd screamed at the top of her lungs whilst orgasming; 'Diddle Diddle Dumpling My Son John, Went To Bed With His Trousers On, One Shoe Off And One Shoe On, Diddle Diddle Dumpling My Son John!' before collapsing across the desk they'd been 'making their own entertainment' upon and breathing into MAP's up-pricked (..? - ed. [ I'll make my jokes... - author ] ) , ear,'it's an ancient children's nursery rhyme,the gist being to do with masturbation, and the loving care lavished upon the masturbator by his mother who,of course,will remove his trousers and lone sock,' she smiled dreamily (shouldn't that be reamily -ed. [..! - author] ), 'but actually it's about time-travel,' MAP began to masturbate more slowly, 'the idea being that the masturbator exists in Dream Time and can return for anything he loses or forgets about simply by going back for it.'

 'Unnnhh!' MAP grunted, 'beating his meat' feverishly,jets of jism juice jacked jumping from his genitalia, 'Ride A Cock Horse to Banbury Cross, To See A Fine Lady Upon A White Horse, Rings On Her Fingers And Bells On Her Toes, She Shall Have Music Wherever She Goes!' he roared.

  'What does it mean?' Lucy asked,smoothing the brow of the master arm practitioner with a square of pink ink blotting paper.

 'Ask me again later,' said MAP, hoisting her sylph-like frame onto his stiffly throbbing erection.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 'I don't know if it's of any use, but there's a door along the corridor with 'Never T.t.' written on it,' Lucy remembered,lying flat on the desk and wriggling into her thigh boots, thankful her breasts weren't big enough to prevent her from seeing what she was doing.

  'Nefertiti? Wasn't that the name of one of the queens of Egypt?' MAP enquired, wishing her breasts were bigger so he could enjoy her struggles as,unable to see what she was doing, left leg would go into right thigh boot, she'd become flustered and, eyes flashing green fire, begin tossing her flame red hair in the way that he loved somuch, and he'd pull off the seemingly radioactive footwear,and she'd be sooo grateful they'd begin tearing their clothes off - again.

 'I know it sounds like that,' Lucy said, unhampered by too-big breasts [shouldn't that be two bi - (Shut up! - author) ]and managing quite well, thanks all the same, 'but it's spelt N.E.V.E.R., the 'letters after the name' indicating her 'Time Temptress' status -  like mine ,' Lucy Fir grinned, 'her job probably has something to do with ancient Egypt though,' she crinkled her cute little snub nose, 'our names always say something about era and geography.'

 'And yours?' MAP already knew,but the knew she liked to tell 'her story',so...

 'I'm a Sidhe, to us time-travel is natural, as is teleportation and a few other things, but it's tiring, so I was glad when the SMs recruited me,their technology meant I could do what I'd been doing before but I wouldn't get tired.'

 'There's a danger in that,isn't there? If you don't use your 'natural' talentsmightn't they atropy?' MAP could see the problem quite clearly.

 'It's a question of training, 'naturals' like me train ourselves to the point where SM Command become interested,then they give us the technology that allows us to remain alert and do what we can do, it's interesting, fun - and who wants to exhaust themselves? Why use yourself up when you can use teleportation hardware and other gadgetry?'

 'If you say so...' MAP wasn't convinced,there was a flaw in this argument,but he couldn't quite see...

 'Anyway, I was 'visiting' a school for Morphs - shapers - when there was an 'incident'. A small boy was being bullied by another bigger small boy,one Anders Hörst, an Imperial Praetorian cub, you know,one of those Roman thugs whose job it is to 'create heroes' by forcing themto fight against overwhelming odds -like big fat schoolboys.Well, this Morpher School shaper got hit on the side of his head and collapsed. I went over to help him and hand-in-hand together we went off to the school clinic where he got patched up by a nurse. Of course, he didn't want to go back to class, so we sat for a while talking, and he asked me to stay with him.'

 'You won't leaveme,will you?' he was very earnest about it so I said that I'd stay 'for as long as I could' - and I did -watching over him for many years, following his progress,development,through Witch Training College, Wizard University, Lore Masters,and Warlock Doctorate; guiding and guarding,in secret -it was a secret love,I suppose,we never spoke again, but I'm sure he feltmy presence and knew he was beloved. And his name - by the time he'd become a fully fledged Warlock - was R. L. Usher Ph.D, which as any lore master would tell you,should be read 'circularly', that is,  D. R. L. Usher Ph., or in other words, Dr Lucifer, and that's where I got my name - Dr Lucy Fir - see?'

 'Why didn't you marry?'

 'We did -in spirit.He was mine and I was his.I stayed with him a long time, too long in some ways, no other girl could get near him because I wouldn't allow it,everyone thought it was funny - except him - but I'd decided that noone else was could enough and,if I couldn't have him...'

 'Nobody could,'  MAP guessed.

 'Right.'

 'But you could have had him.'

 'That's true, but I didn't want him in 'that way'; Lucy frowned.

 'Oh,' MAP was nonplussed.

 'Anyway, in the end I let him go and joined the T.T's. We'll see each other again someday, I'm sure.'

 'Well, if you're sure...' 

 'Besides,he'd gotten involved with an enchantress while working on an M.Sc in Hungary, and it was getting to look a bit silly,a nine year old girl following him around everywhere he went.'

 'Nine year old..?'

 'I'd decided I wouldn't grow up until he married - me hopefully.'

 'But I thought you said...' MAP blinked in bafflement.

 'Women are different,' Dr Fir snapped, showing him the door,'turn left and keepgoing,you can't miss it.'

 

                                                                                                *

 

 Miss Never turned out to be a rather scatterbrained tech-nix with horn-rimmed glasses,straw blonde never-combed hair,which gave her the look of a rather dishevelled poodle called B.A.Nana that he'd once known and that hadn't had its coat clipped since being whelped,all things considered she was quite attractive actually-the dog,that is. Never had introduced herself by saying 'Welcome to Neverland,' and throwing her arms wide as if offering herself and the contents of the room in which she was ensconced for his inspection,added 'are you Peter Pan?'

 'Thanks -and, no.' MAP replied,reckoning he was dealing with a 'right nutter' here.

 'A pity. Captain Hook?'

 'None of the above,' MAP assured her.

 'Alright,I give up.Which story are you in?'

 'Sorry?'

 'Everyone is in one story or another.Which one are you?'

 'Well, I'm MAP and I1mlooking for a way to get back to Akenhaten's Egypt and I've got this scarab on a throne wearing the double-crown of the Pharaoh's and I'm Supreme Command of Allied Space and I'm a friend of Dr Lucy Fir and -'

 'Oh,you'reone of his! That explains everything.'

 'One of whose?' MAP hadn't thought of himself as a character in a stroy before,it was a little unnerving.

 'Oral Usher, the Wandering Tale Teller from Storyland, the 'One' whom the 'Story-Bawds' devote their talents to, the Great Imagineer, the Silent Spinner of Stories, the -'

 'But I'm me.' MAP protested.

 'You're fucking Lucy.'

 'Yes,' that was true,MAP had to admit that.

 'She wants to fuck him - and you're fucking her, so you must be one of his,you're part of his and her story.'

 'Why doesn't he fuck her?' MAP was beginning to wonder when the orderlies in white coats would arrive to take him kicking and screaming back to the ward.

 'He's a story developer,a character-former, an Elf doctor, a curer of ills throughthe power of daemon-stration.'

 'Oh, I get it! He's a master of the living archetypes!'

 'That'sone way to put it.The faerie folk implement his teachings and prescriptions or remedies for society's physical and spiritual ills in their interactions with human men and women; his 'helpers' callhim The Silent One.'

 'Why?'

 'Because they know his thoughts almost before he himself does.  Noone knows how he does it,but he does!' Miss Never folded her arms and glinted through her spectacles as if expecting something expected.

 'I'm a patient?' MAP couldn't believe it.

 'Orhe is. It's not certain which.You're fucking Lucy - and he should be. Something has to give - or be given,' the glint disappeared to be replaced by smiling kindness, 'what did you say you wanted?'

 'Akenhaten's Egypt.'

 'Turn left,third door on the right.Right?'

 'Right,' said MAP (shouldn'tthat be Fred?- ed. [ Fred,dead? Don't be so bloody cryptic,this might have to be translated into Mandarin where noone's ever heard of Bernard Cribbin's revoltingly twee 60s 45rpm record 'Hole In The Ground' - author] ), his stay in Neverland petering out, as it were.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 The third door on the right had 'Akenhaten's Egypt' written on a piece of paper in green ink and sellotaped to the door.

 'Did  you know that 'bíro' in Hungarian means 'judge', said MAP to nobody but himself, 'the symbol of judgement being the Sword of Logos,that is, Christ as the Word of God, the Law of the Commandments, and that the English word 'biro', meaning 'ball-point pen', owes its origins to Mr Laszló Bíro, its Hungarian inventor. Well, you know what they say, 'the pen is mightier than the sword' and, so saying, MAP took a biro from the breast pocket of his denim jacket and added the words 'on Mars' before turning the handle and going inside.

 'You'll need a spacesuit,sir,' said a voice.

 'Wha..?'

 'Spacesuit sir, here sir,' and hands handed over a bulky package, tugged him onwards, pushed directively for a pace or two,MAP sensed a closer blackness, there was a click, light,himself mirrored in a glass oblong with what he assumed must be a spacesuit folded upon his outstretched arms, a seamless one-piece jump-suit affair in shiny silver with a zipper and velcro fastening fromcrotch to throat and, to take account of the floppy headgear, continuing on from throat to nape of neck and on to chin.

 'Finished sir? This way sir?'

  The light snapped off,an armtookhis, guided him forward, turned him around,pushed gently, shoved, the floor disappearing and - whoooosh! MAP's butt hurtling down what he supposed must be something like a kid's playground slide.

 Five minutes passed, then ten, and MAP was about to nod off when - thunk! Journey's End. A flash of light, yellow crystal tinglings - sand, he supposed, looking askance at the tiny yellow grains which, thanks to the impact factor, had swallowed him up,in anatomical-geographical terms,as far as the Lower Stomach Deltoids - no,gold! He struggled upright, stepping out of what he'd supposed to be a sandpit designed to 'cushion' the fall of those who 'happened to drop in'.

 Gold dust sprinkled his silver spacesuit like hundres-and-thousands on a well-iced doughnut, MAP shimmered around what he'd supposed was an underground chamber studying the carvings that covered the triangular walls of the pyramidicalsanctum. One fresco depicted an Eye of Horus, the son of Osiriis and Isis, brother and sister, son and daughter of Ra,the Great Sun God. Below the single eye, an extension,as it were,of the lower lid,was a kiddies' slide,that which he'd just used,for example, a dispenser,as it were,of...what? Eye drops? Perhaps. Dropletsmight roll from the corner of the eye,down the chute that depended from  its curiously framed lower lid and...what? MAP remembered the Gypsies of Old Earth and their superstitious beliefs centering around fears of the 'Evil Eye', symbolized by the figure of the god Loki in Norse mythology,Satan in the Christian mythos, and in Egypt? Set! MAP remembered the myth of Osiris,slain and dismembered by the Evil One,the parts of the god strewn to the four quarters of the globe, his phallus placed inside a casket and hurled into the sea never to be recovered. And then! On the second wall, a frieze depicting the God Osiris' struggle with his evil half-brother,the butchering of the young golden hope of Ra -sosimilar to the killing of the golden haired Baldur by Loki in Earth'slegends of the Northern hemisphere - and the grief of Isis, his sister who -lo! - on the third wall was depicted gathering the members of the fallen Osiris' corpse, and the pair, in regal splendour, finally enthrones as King and Queen over all Egypt,he wearing the red half of the double-crown, and she the white. Enigma of enigmas. What did it allmean? MAP turned to the fourth wall, the depiction of Ra,the Great God of the Sun, and there on a giant throne sat the scarab beetle, symbol of symbols, enigma of enigmas,incapable of emotion and incapable of provoking emotions, the stony embodiment of emotionlessness.

 'Pretty, no?'

 MAP, alarmed at the suddeness of the interruption to his train of thought, threw himself sideways, rolling over onto his shoulder as he did so to take the impact's shock, before back-flipping from a prone-and-vulnerable position over into the relative 'cover' of the gold-dust pit.

 'Quite...so.' MAP struggledto reply, slightly out of breath and, with a mouth full of gold, not sure whether to spit or 'make like a vaccuum cleaner'.

 'Welcome to my Martian abode,' the bodiless voice spoke on, 'I am Anubis, the god of the dead, an exile from the trinary system of Syrius, exiled for - a crime -' a shadowy figure began to emerge from  the gloom  in one of the farther corners,a biped with the head of a dog - and a smile. 'I know what you're thinking,by the way, I'm a telepath you see, we all were on Syrius V before some of us decided that only some of us should be,which ultimately led tomy downfall; a shame that,'  said the dodgy doggy, 'but for a while we reigned supreme over an entire quadrant, able to read the minds of our enemies, allies,co-conspirators, emperors, warlords, babes in the womb, democrats, autocrats, none were able to escape our overt and covert manipulations, assassinations where necessary, thieving where appropriate,blackmail if all else failed and,of course, mentaltorment or...bliss for those who served us well.'

 'How so?'

 'Set and Horus,' the Syrian gestured vaguely, 'symbols of whata man can become. Ra, the Father, Osiris, the Son - slain, resurrected; Isis, Virgin sister-mother, Horus born of a phallus-less union, the Paraclete or Spirit Guide of Christian tradition, the lapis philosophorum of the alchemists,Ambrosia of the gods, the Stone of the Wise, and - '

 'Can I have some?' asked MAP,practical to the last.

 'It's not that simple,' Anubis huffed, 'it's to do with psychology,chemistry and physics.'

 'Yes?' MAP assumed the air of an eager pupil.

 'Ra symbolizes the Super-Ego of Freud, the ten 'you'd better nots' of Christianity, for example, conditioning which the individual has to transcend, re-condition him or her-self after de-conditioning,' Osiris is the transcendent ego,logic -the zenith of which is technology in all its forms, while Isis is the soul, the feminine anima, essence of masculinity, the transmuter of the male sex,the philosopher's gold, aurum philosophicorum, sythesizing creatrix of the male-female Self, the illuminator, the catalyst that, wooed and won in the shape of the 'beloved',represented here,' dog-head gestured at the walls about him, 'as the sister-mother goddess Isis, opens the 'third eye', the One Eye of Horus/Set, Good and Evil, the sinister path and the path of light and life, the Way of the Gods!'

 'Psychology, chemistry, physics?'

 'Psychologically speaking, the opening of the pineal gland, that is, the 'third eye' symbolically situated in the centre of the forehead, is a psycho-chemical process involving what, for example, Carl Jung referred to as 'active imagination', a synthetic approach to the products of one's fantasies which results in chemical changes within the human brain that produces - Something Awesome!'

 'That?' MAP pointed at the Eye of Horus.

 'Yes, the original 'drugs' dispenser of men like Aesclapius and Paracelsus, the inspiration for such seminal nineteenth century novels as Robert Louis Stephenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the source and the cure of madness.'

 'Both source and cure - how?' MAP was becoming increasingly fascinated by the hypnotic trance-inducing discourse of the Syrian.

 'Man has two-eyes, a left, 'sinister' and aright or 'good', Set denoted the eye-slide or 'dispenser', symboliying the optic tunnel extending from the pupil of one mind or psyche to another, the effect produced by the connection being dependant upon whether the 'psychologist' is a black or white 'magician',or whether he chooses to make black or white 'magic' in the psyche of his patient/victim. Sufferers of sexual abuse, for example, might receive 'white' or Horus' magic while killers or rapists would receive 'black' Set 'magic'.

 'I still don't see how it's possible to look into someone's eye and induce psychological changes,' MAP stoically declared with an uncomfortable feeling that he was about to be proved wrong.

 'As you probably know, the physicists discovered what the poet Alan Ginsberg intuited in his poem The Altering Eye, Seeing,Alters All, that is, human consciousness affects reality at the quantum level where light particles behave in a way completelydifferent when we aren't looking than when we do; in short, particles tend to travel in straight lines until observed, then choose alternative routes to their destination which correspond to different alternate realities or universes that are accessible to those with the capacity to change their consciousness because a changed consciousness is, as it were, not only seeing the world with 'new eyes',but also changing that world with them thanks to transcendent consciousness' capacity to constellate a different reality fromout of the quantum 'web' of possible alternatives.'

 'So, looking someone in the eye can,depending on whether you're transcendent 'third eye' is a Set or a Horus,produce Heaven or Hell for the victim/patient of your psychic engineering.'

 'Yes, indeed. It's possible to make someone sick by, as it were, injecting poison along the eye-dispenser -by means of what Jung calls the shadow - or healing balsam - through the power of what Christianity calls the Holy Spirit which is, as it were, the shadow-less soul or Paraclete which alows its Master to function as a guide, teacher and healer for the disciple who, as it were, is led by his/her guru along the Path of Enlightenment into Nirvana, Paradise, the Elysian Fields, the Isles of the Blessed, Avalon, the Lands of the Western Seas, Atlantis, to name but a few of the euphemisms for That Which Cannot Be Expressed.'

 'And this is how you induced bliss as a reward and madness as a punishment for those that served or tried to thwart your plans during the Telepath Wars around the Syrius system at the time of the Pharaoh Akenhaten?'

 'You've heard of us then?' the Anubian showed little interest.

 'SM Command has a file on you - Dr Jackal!'

 'Oh,really.Well, I quite understand. But we couldn't allow Akenhaten to implement Worship of the One,it would've produced too many of the illumined and that would've interfered with our plans for Sector Control through the incubation of Sickness and Madness in their minds and, thereby, the bodies of Our Worshippers.'

 'So, what went wrong?'

 'Egypt wasmy 'province'; literally, I was the 'incarnated god' there.We crushed Akenhaten mercilessly, effacing all signs of him and his disc everywhere it could be found, but the idea had been born, and when the Christs, Siddharthas, Krishnas, Dalai Lamas, and other Saints began to appear and focus their devotees energies on the Godhead, we found ourselves rounded up and interned by the Galactic Guardians,entities of pure energy, capable of...well,anything is too simple a word for what they're capable of; but I got this Martian tetrahedron for my pains -and I'm soooo tired.'

 Barely perceptibly the Anubian had crept ever closer in the course of its monologue, till it stood towering over the hapless MAP sprawled in abasement on a hill of gold dust, wishing for all the worlds he could fly like Peter Pan back to Neverland and B.A. Nana his faithful poodle-headed poodle.

 As Dr. Jackal the Anubian Magister bowed its ugly head to aim its Set-beam more surely, MAP gazed pleadingly into the elongated orange pupils and slavering jawline with its cruel array of incisive cutting and crunching canine tools, prehensile tongue lashing back and forth in bare concealment of the carnivorous appetite that lurked within the dog-god's soul, MAP swung his right hand hard from its position beside his prostrated form, releasing the stone beetle (Paul Jagger or Mick McCartney? - ed.) only inches from the beast's brow, the statuette striking with the force of a detonation, caving in the skull of the amazed telepath and bouncing back, bloody but undamaged,to lie - rather happily MAP thought -amid the gold dust, the Anubian still with a mingled look of chagrin and bewilderment toppling backwards into the center of its prison, grey rice puddingish liquid bubbling out of the hole in its face and uttering the immortal (misnomer, no?- ed.) line, 'Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, Get Off My Cloud' ) before hitting the granite beneath its feet hard and head on in a blind collision with death.

 MAP, thinking off his 'borg-induced electromagnetic hemispheroid shield,pocketed the bloody stone beetle (Keith Lennon,John Richards? - ed.),picked himself up,dusted himself - somewhat reluctantly on account of the value of the dust -down,rifled the pockets of the Anubian,pocketed a CD micro-disc bearing the legend 'Akenhaten's Sun' and wondered how he'd get home.

 This way please, sir,' said a voice from the darker recesses of the tomb, 'a bit quicker please sir, I have another guest to be seeing to - a Mr Bond - in a few minutes if you don't mind, sir,' and as MAP approached the dingy corner of the strange edifice,a hand emerged to grab his arm and thrust him unprotestingly into a twentieth-century elevator belonging, apparently to the SAS Robisson chain of hotels,althoughMAP doubted if there'd ever been a hotel in that period on Earth with six-hundred-and-sixty-six floors.

 'It'll be a relief to be back at the GROTTO' with the MAPs thought MAP,stepping out of the elevator door,which happened to be disguised as a menhir in Northern Europe around 1066 A.D. in the middle of a battlefield where Vikings and Saxons were in the process of massacring each other.

 'Your double-headed battle-axe,sir,' said a voice,  and an arm appeared frominside the menhir,wearing the sleeve of a dinner jacket and crisp white silver cuff-linked shirt,the wrist wearing a Cartier diamond-studded Chronometer and,dangling fromits well-manicured-yet-swarthy hand, a looped leather strap,on the end of which swung a Viking's pride and joy (a penis? -ed.)

 'All in a day's work,' said MAP to noone in particular and,swinging the weapon in ever-widening circles about his massive frame, entered the fray.

 'Now, I wonder which ones are the Saxons?' he muttered.

 

Robin Usher

 

robika2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

Special Angel Service

 

'All you have to do is think yourself into it,' the psych-tech informed him. 'The process is simple. First of all  you inform your subconscious - a little auto-suggestion will go a long way here - that you want to be 'fully-armoured', and the 'god within' will do the rest.

 'Um.'

 'There's no need to be sceptical MAP.If it works it works - and you'll be grateful. If it doesn't, so what? Keep an open mind and, who knows, you may never need wear a powered suit again.'

 'What about weaponry?'

 'It depends upon your psycho-spiritual make-up.'

 'Um.'

 'Yes, well...depending on the kind of person you are, that is, your overall role within the Divine Plan, you will be possessed of certain capacities or predispositions towards one mode of operationality rather than another. Usually this is manifested in purely physical/earthly terms, but there are higher realms of the spirit...'

 'Um.'

 '...in which these psychological attributes can become psychic-physical powers.'

 'Ah.'

 'To take an example,' the bushy-bearded white-haired oldpsych-tec gave him a withering look,'if you're naturally what they call an 'introverted type',then you might be surrounded by - in potentiam, that is - a powerful force field capable of keeping at bay anyone who would seek to get near enough to harm you.'

 'I...see, I think.'

 'I'm sure you do. We all do that MAP.But we want to see what kind of potentialities you've been hiding. Wouldn't youlike to see - or rather not see - yourself in an invisi-suit, and discover your secret mission?'

 'Uh?'

 'Well, as I said, we all have a role to play in the Scheme of the Great Architect, but few of us are fully aware of it or are able to fulfil our function consciously - to really know I suppose.' The old man paused and frowned in deep thought for a moment or so. 'It's like this you see' he began, 'on this plane of existence what we do has an effect on the higher spheres; for example, if I pick up this pen,' he picked up an object from his desk, 'that's all I'm doing according to your perception but, in the Realm of the Spirit',Imay have unsheathed a powerful Vibro-Sword and slain a score of Demons...you see?'

 'It's a bit far-fetched, isn't it?'

 'Maybe so, but wouldn't you like to find out more before condemning it out of hand without even giving it a chance?'

 'Well, okay, I'm  game.'

 'Good. But you need to bear one thing in mind.'

 'Sure.' MAP waited.

 'Belief is extremely important here.You have to believe that everything you do has incredible significance.'

 'So?'

 'Yes -hence the need to hypnotize yourself into believing that you have god-like powers.'

 'Somemight say I already do.'

 'In your armour certainly, but that's rather cumbersome. Wouldn't it be nicer to just know that you haveit -invisible, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent?'

 MAP raised an eyebrow.'I'm beginning to get the drift, I think I hope.'

 'Don't hope, be certain.'

 The psych-tec's vehemence surprised MAP. He reflected for a moment, then said 'What if I believe this pen,' he tookit gently fromhis interlocutor, 'is a seeker-killer, and I point it in your direction.'

 Suiting word to deed, MAP tossed the inoffensive-looking ball-point into the air,and the slender pseudo-missile seemed to assert itself in the unfamiliar medium, hesitantly at first, then more confidently until, to all appearances cruising, it headed slowly off in the direction of the old tec who, somewhat tentatively, snatched it out of its slow-but-sure trajectory as it approached its designated target -himself!

 'Quite impressive,' he smiled strainedly at MAP,' then suddenly business-like oncemore, 'imagine what you could do with a trained psyche.'

 MAP groaned inwardly. 'I'm thirty-nine now and still learning new tricks with hard-tec. How long is this soft-tec stuff going to take?'

 'How does twenty-minutes sound to you?' the oldster chuckled  gleefully.

 'Sounds impossible.'

 'You'll see,' the old man flipped over what looked like a miniature musicube. 'Find a quiet corner and listen to this hypnocube - or jack it into your aural circuitry. It'll make a new man of you,' his blue-steel eyes twinkled in anticipation, 'or at least let you see what the old one was missing.'

 

                                                                                                *

 

 MAP awoke from the hypno-trance unimpressed. He didn't feel any different. Was he supposed to? He couldn't even remember any of the commands which, he assumed, had been given to his unconscious 'Self'. Perhaps he'd been programmed to forget. He didn't know - and he didn't much care at that moment. The T.V. control was near-to-hand and he selected the kids' channel. Particoloured butterflies of light began to flicker hesitantly across the screen. His eyes focused in upon images of devastation and destruction.

 'Cartoon heroes saving the world yet again,' he scoffed.

 The show was 'Planet Defenders', a popular men-of-iron-versus-Xtras type scenario featuring a few special human beings who, for no apparent reason, were possessed of amazing abilities and holocaustic hardware which they could use to prevent aliens from conquering Earth. Actually, it wasn't far from the truth. There weren't many people on the planet who knew about the 'threat from above'. It had been decided long ago that most of them wouldn't be able to deal with that necessity for Orwellian 'doublethink' which would be involved in working an ordinary nine-to-five day knowing that, at any moment, a lightning raid might destroy wife, home, famil, city, life... So it was agreed that the Space Marines would be created secretly. It had been relatively easy - once the Subverter menace had become manifest after an attack on one of the research stations out near Pluto - to declare Peace on Earth and phase out all terrestrial military capability. Joe Public thought the Golden Age had arrived and waited expectantly for the promised benefits in areas such as welfare, education, housing etc., but, amidst many thin excuses, funds were channeled into producing the super-technology necessary to maintain an elite fighting force to protect human space from the Invader. It was, of course, difficult to disguise a Subverter raid as an earthquake in Sao Paolo, but so far it had worked.The other difficulty revolved  around how to keep an organisation like the Marines hidden from the public gaze. People would, MAP knew, be amazed to learn how many domestic and public artifacts could, if the user had been trained in the esoteric techno-lore of the Marine Service, be used as tools in the war 'out there'. No-one, for example, knew what all those buttons on their streetphones were for - and no-one, it seemed, ever asked either.But he knew. If he pressed a few of the glyphs in combination with a few of the numerals and used his Marine ID card instead of the usual 50 credit piece of plastic that the ordinary man-in-the-street did, he could drop himself inside an SM ship wearing powered armour and about to take part in a Drop on a Subverter Nest in a distant part of the galaxy. Similarly, if you knew where to point the gizmo given to all of his kind at graduation from the Academy on newly terra-formed Venus, you could turn a vaccuum cleaner in any home anywhere into a missile-launching bazooka with nuclear capability, and if Mr.Average would  be aware of what his four-door family saloon could do if only he knew how to  shake it, he'd probably die of apoplexy.

 Cartoons like these, he'd remembered, had been developed to prepare the rest of humanity for the truth, and efforts were being made to bring them up to speed by making the technology used by the SMs increasingly available in more acceptable guises - such as microwave ovens, personal stereos, and the information superhighway. There was already a guy in Nevada who claimed to have discovered how to teleport rats, enter twenty-six different dimensions, and talk with the protozoid denizens of Betelgeuse Aleph. He was ridiculed and sent to an asylum -standard procedure - but he was closer to the truth than anyone outside the Corps could guess.

 His reverie was broken by the splintering of glass,and the ear-splitting screamof a nerve-disruptor.

 'Whoever it is they want me alive,' he'd realized instantly.

 The scream was designed to instil fear, a kind of paralysis of the will for which MAP had received immunity conditioning as part of his Special Forces training in what used to be the United States before it was supplanted by the Pan American Union.In short, he still had a few nanoseconds in which to act before the grenade detonated and let loose the real stuff, a phial of liquid which, when broken, produced a nerve-paralysing blue-pink vapour. In his suit he couldhave done it, but without enhancement he was helpless. Then it happened!  A searing pain in the middle of his forehead -as if someone had switched on an old-fashioned electric light inside his brain - and his body flew - quite literally - across the room to hover pensively over the offending object. Immediately he somehow knew exactly how much time reamined to him before the nerve-destroying agent was let loose, and he reached out with...what? Suddenly the deadly thing was no longer on the carpet before him...it was in the air ahead and on its way out of that jagged gap in the window-pane which had heralded its unwanted arrival. There was a dull explosion -and then it was as if nothing untoward had ever occurred. MAP's now-relaxed body stood squarely on the plush-red pile while he looked out of its eyes at a window in which fragments of glass - some still picking themselves up from off the floor near his feet - were endeavouring to arrange themselves in a seamless mosaic - and succeeding!'

 'Well, I'll bedamned,' MAP declared to no-one in particular, then, in typical swashbuckling style, 'pity really, the pink-and-blue cloud would've gone with the 'ducks in flight' wallpaper.' He stepped across to the bedside intercom.

 'Get me Doctor Coopster,' he breathed heavily once, 'I think we need to talk.'

 

                                                                                                *

 

 Standing in the front rank of the Startroopers waiting to make the Drop on a - hopefully unsuspecting - Subverter Hive-planet, MAP reflected upon the previous six months. It had been a gruelling period in which, asthe Doc put it, he'd learnt to use his eyes - all three of them, that is.The but-recently switched-on part of his mind was what Hindu mystics and others had called the 'third eye', the hidden power of the pineal gland, a hitherto supposedly dormant or atrophied section of the human brain that was in fact the key to truly awesome power - for those possessed of the requisite knowledge and the ability to use it.

 As the Drop doors began to open, MAP glanced at the Trooper on his left.He admired the red-and-chrome armour of the Bloodstar Order, the face of the Marine Sergeant twisted in the grip of a fierce grin that kept at bay the Death Terror that lay behind the mask of every man waiting to make a Drop on a Subverter world. The death's head skulls stamped into the breastplate bore mute witness to the number of times the grizzled old warrior had fought in battle and come back. Not unscathed though, MAPobserved; that right leg of his was a prosthetic which, he contemplated with some amusement, probably functioned better than the original. The man wasn't a cyborg - he couldthank God for that- but, MAP scanned further down the line, there were 'men' here who were, and who would've wished they weren't if they'd still had hearts with which to feel. He sighed. The sergeant had begun to sweat as the ship-computer announced that they'd soon be over the target zone. MAP glanced at the weapons he carried. There was the standard projectile-thrower with its ammunition clips strung around neck, waist and shoulder. Shells for piercing the natural insectoid armour of the Subverter warrior, stun-shells for use in the deeper recesses of the Nest where there wasa possibility of an Egg-steal or a Queen-capture, star-shells to give light in the tunnels of the Subverter Hive, earthquake shells designed to entomb alive whole regiments of the bug-like warriors inside their cavernous halls where, before combat, the 'Mustering of the Swarm' took place.They'd be Swarming by now, MAP thought.He'll need everything he's got down there-and more. The sergeant screwed down his helmet pins and the visor went opaque. he could imagine the look of release in the man's eyes.He might even shed tears now, MAPmused - he always had.

 Each man would jump fifteen seconds behind the other, simply to give each of them room to manouvere on the ground. When they hit dirt their personal shields - force-fields to you and me - would be already active (switched-on in mid-air at one-and-a-half-klicks with a radius of 250 metres) and every one of them would rapidly become the epicentre of a circle of destructivity that no Trooper in his right mind would seek to overlap. The cluster of grape-bombs hung at the waist (designed to be picked and hurled randomly for maximum devastation) were, MAP recalled, capable of removing entire city blocks in a few minutes when scattered by an expert - as he had no doubt the sergeant was. He looked down at his own seemingly meagre resources. Jeans and a T-shirt! He restrained the impulse to laugh at himself. The first man to make a Drop without powered armour, force-shield or the standard array of weapons, stood on the brink and awaited the command to 'jump'.

 'Seventy-nine prepare Thyself.'

 'Damned officious lump of spacejunk,' MAP spat in the general direction of the ship's main frame on deck six.

 'Give birth to Thyself,' the vox-mechanical droned the formulaic word-ritual.

 MAP's head hung loose. His brow ached. The skin there felt hot and it pained when he tried to focus. A wound so soon? MAP tried to feel its extent with his fingertips.The flesh gave a little and his vision cleared. He instinctively pushed harder. The fissure of flesh widened and, slowly, raised itself! Then everything was clear, and finally he knew. He simply knew!

 The third eye kicked in and MAP's body leapt.

 'Return with your shield on - and in it!'  the synth-voice screamed after him.

 MAP floated down in a nimbus of blue-flame. In his left hand he held a fiery Sword of Gold, in his right a Spear of shining Silver.Upon his head sat a crowning Halo of flaming Sapphire, and Night-Black Wings flapped slowly-but-powerfully from somewhere in the region of his shoulder-blades. MAP laughed in his joy.

 'Like I said, a Trooper needs everything he's got and more!'

 The Swarming was complete,the Subverter hordes pouring out of their subterranean citadels to do battle with the Bloodstar on the plain below.

 MAP looked upon them in his Ire - and they were no more. A ragged cheer went up from the men of his Order as they fell through the skies. MAP gazed upon the Mounds of the Unhuman, the Hills of the Ungodly, he glanced to the Rightand to the Left - and Behold! The High Places were Wrought Low as another stream of photonic energy spitting forth from the socket of his but-recently acquired Orb, levelled at the Hives of the Swarm.

 'The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon!' he sang out in ecstasy.

 'The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon!' echoed the Troopers all about him as they hurtled on to Final Victory.

 'And Amen to that,' said one grizzled old sergeant, gritting his teeth while gingerly flexing the leg he thought of as his 'good' one - the leg that was his, that is.  

 

Robin Usher

 

robika2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

Supramazonic

 

'...it is the atmosphele cleated that detelmines the envilonmentar conditions,' the delegate from Mazone droned on oblivious to the torpidity of his/her (since the 'Breakthrough' psycho-physical bisexuality was the 'norm' among the Mazonic Confederacy) battered and beleaguered listeners tired of defending themselves against the indubitable wealth of informatical riches contained within the technical impenetrability of what the envoy was manouvering to express, 'so how do  we ploduce the desiled atmosphele?'

 The questioner didn't seriously expect to get a response and was about to continue 'carrying on regardless' when a voice near to the rostrum replied in simple-yet-majestic tones: 'If you're anything to go by, it's created by talking out of one's ass.'

Bluntness was a technique praised above all other communicative skills by the rank-and-file grunts at Space Marine Central and MAP's forthright utterance was a resounding success in the sense that, behind his back, the hall erupted in a display of riotous enthusiasm for the man they'd elected to be the unofficial 'Priestking' of the 'Unholy Orders'. As such he now had to justify his impoliteness to an honoured guest of the 'Brotherhood'.

 'Please accept my humblest apologies Dr.Lu, I was only trying to galvanize my fellow colleagues and attract their attention on your behalf.'

 'A crevel tactic sil, but I'm quite certain an entilery unnecessary one. I plide myserf on the stimurating chalactel of my lhetolic.'

 'Yes, indeed. I doubt not its...effectiveness -,' an observation accompanied by the sound of muffled laughter and one irrepressible heckler hidden somewhere amid the throng representing the all-girl A-Mazone Order, ' - and this character is rather proud of her rectal stimulator!'

 The feisty thing to whom the voice belonged revealed that she also possessed an extraordinary litheness of body too. Pirouetting upon the seat of her chair she made an 'A',  lifted the leather flap concealing her pertly provocative derriére, parted the cheeks of her exposed buttocks with both hands - and farted out a tune which, MAP recalled with not a little amusement and bemusement, had a line in it that ran 'Come on to my house,' but which sounded to the listener something more like, 'Come on uh my ass, my ass uh come on.' Always happy to oblige a lady, he turned, stood on his own chair, and farted out the tune In The Mood by an Old Terran robotic ensemble.

 First phase of the courting ritual over, the girl indicating her interest by farting 'Venusian Fever Lust' (a popular ditty currently taking the nine planets by storm and, about to break in both Cygnusian and Polluxian systems simultaneously, was causing its songstress untold nights of nervousness due to the stress and strains of having to learn the lyrics for a concert tour in which only about 30% of the audiences could understand Galactic Standard), MAP gave his ears over to the Chinese expert on the lostlum (...er, rostrum, that is - ed.).

 'Alchitectularry speaking, wolship is an omniplesent human tlait, we find evidence of stluctules lerating to the petitioning or parriating of valious folms of deity or deities in arr epochs or elas.'

 'But they're useless in termsof armospheric usage, aren't they? Their deities are long dead - as is the numinosity surrounding their places of worship,' he continued, pressing home his point.

 'Of coulse, but it's possibre to leactivate the ord conditions using oul knowredge of ancient alchitectules and, in the spilit of the ancients, cleate new folms - even buirding upon the ord in some cases - to not onry lecleate the essence of the past, but arso to, a sit wele, visit or cleate the futule of (and out of) the past as it is pleselved fol us in myth, role, symbor and stone. But not onry that. If we can lecleate the past and cleate the futule using these techniques, then it shourd be possibre to access - glanting the hypothesis that some notabre cleations in stone and alt ale or lathel wele, ol even, pelhaps wirr be,' Dr Lu paused significantly (for some reason most of those gathered couldn't figure out) 'the ploducts of aerien visitols from dimensions/civirizations taking an intelest in oul deveropment - the pasts, futules and...psyches of those...el...intelested parties.'

 'A kind of psychic archaeology, but building upon the remains of the past to create or, MAP himself paused significantly (and all eyes turned on him - for significant pauses in MAP's case were treated by the Orders as preludes to revelation) re-create (nods, knowing looks and winks from uncomprehending eyes greeting this particular Oracle) as well as create the future...er...with all its possibilities (affirmative glances, nods, bold stares etc., from faces showing total incomprehension and bewilderment).

 'Exactry sil,' Dr Lu made a passing movement with his hand which suggested, MAP decided following the looping path of the Architekton's gesticulations, that s/he knew something of the 'making and shaping' magic associated with the fractile geomancers of Chaos VII in the Gandalphian sector of the Magellanic Cloud, 'we shourd speak fulthel,' s/he suggested somewhat diffidently.

 'Absolutely, and if I may invite our friend from the A-Mazones,' MAP made a suggestion of his own, 'we might be able to explain to her some of the finer points of etiquette and hospitality.

 'An admilabre idea, and one which I would be mole than happy to assist in herping to learise. What say we - I won't say abandon - the seminal and, ret's say, legloup in more plivate sulloundings? Madame?' The visiting professor cocked an eye at the A-girl.

 'Shamanist-A-Maisie Rosewine' ready, willing and able to perform the occasional miracle, reporting for duty, ' the glad-eyed redhaired damsel raised two fingers in mock rebuke/salute, put thumb and forefinger together to signify 'A-okay', pointed pointedly with her pointing finger at  the space between her legs and two veteran spacers - MAP and Lu - followed her out of the hotel's Conference Centre and into Reception where she welcomed them both with a wriggle of her hips and a laugh of not-too-surprised amusement as both her suitors, holding room keys in their hands, glanced enquiringly in her direction.

 'I have my own suite, you can come up in about half-an-hour after I've refreshed and changed into something more suitable.

 'Okay, we've a couple of things to  discuss before we get down to more...er...serious business,' MAP arched an eyebrow mock interrogatively.

 'Fine with me,' A-Girl Maisie turned, heading for the 'chute', trying to look back invitingly, first over one shoulder, then the other, offering herself to the two simply rather than provocatively.

 'Shamanista Losewine,' Lu said more under hir breath than to anyone else, 'a gilr aftel my own healt.'

 'More like your wallet,' MAP  watched the 'chute' doors close, 'so you are one of the Chaocian magi?'

 'How did you guess?'

 'Well, your gestures on the rostrum revealed your knowledge of 'maker and shaper' movements, so I decided to cultivate your interest in Shamanista Rosewine and maybe learn a trick or two myself.'

 'Crevel, vely crevel. Magic, of coulse, is mole scientific nowadays.'

 'Of course, as one great science fiction writer of Old Terra once said 'Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.'

'Natularry,' the mage laughed inscrutably, 'I think we can teach you a thing ol...two?'

 'Please do. It's what I want.'

 'Oh, doyou wand too?'

 'No, I want to.'

 'You want two?'

 'Yes, I want too.'

 'Werr, hele you ale  then,' the mage reached into the folds of hir voluminous green and black cloak and, bringing out two pencil thin tranceiver wands, placed them like cigars in the breast pocket of MAP's dinner jacket, 'we'rr show you how to use them. Arr you have to do is say 'what you wand.'

 'Say what I want?'

 'Saying and sperring are ringuistic apperations but, put simpristicarry, filst you sperr - the wand does that - then you 'say', that is, a  visuarisation plocess often accompanied with speech - it's the atmosphele that's impoltant - but that's not necessaly, and -hey plesto! - you get what you wand.

 'Gotcha! I get what I wand!'

 'Interrigence  is impoltant, but not palamount, fol exampre, if you know a rot about mythorogy ol the diffelent berief systems, that is, the Egyptian myth of Osilis ol the Sefiloth of the Kabbarah in Judaism, then it's possibre for you to access that 'magicar' system to ploduce cooldinated effects associated with that system's lules and lewalds, but if you just want the ratest cal it's melery a 'wishing' exelcise.

 'All this would involve the 'many worlds' theory.'

 'Yes, the wand is capabre of invoking any of the possibirities within which anothel Ord Tellan scifi writel once raberred the 'murtivelse'.'

 'You mean alternate realities?'

 'Not quite. Physicists discovered that human consciousness affects learity to the extent that 'what we see is what we get', that is, if we can change oul minds, as it wele, it's possible fol us to entel palarrer univelses whethel they be fictionar ol what we think of as 'learity'. In sholt, arr possibre wolrds exist. We just have to 'say' to the wand whele we want to go.'

 'I don't understand the mechanics of all this.'

 'Werr, if you can imagine a stleam of erectlons being filed at a warr, you wourd expect them to allive at the warr in loughry the same alea - and they do. But, and this is the impoltant point, if we watch them, they choose flom a prethola of diffelent ways to leach that same spot on the warr, thatis, each particre is palt of a 'plobabirity wave' which offels a murtiprex of coulse changes collesponding to what we think of as artelnate learities or...er...fictuarities.'

 'You mean that, if I want to visit C.S. Lewis' Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkein's 'Middle Earth' allI have to do is 'wave' my 'wand'.

 'Plecisery.You might have to conjule up the light atmosphele by leading a rittre or thinking about what you want, but essentiarry you'le collect; apalt from the fact that it's lathel the 'wand' that 'waves' you, that is, its 'magic' artels the comprexity of the wave folm that is you in oldel to faciritate youl access to a celtain (or even uncertain -ed.) facet of the murtivelse.'

 'Sounds fantastic.'

 'It celtainry (rather than probably or possibly - ed.) is.'

 'Well, let's find Shamanista Rosewine and see if she'll wave our magic wands for us.'

 'I don't think she'rr be abre to waive this,' Dr Lu unbuttoned hir dress shirt to reveal the head of a penis nestling comfortably between hir not inconsiderable breasts.

 'I see you work out.'

 'Oh, there's mole to the Geomancels of Chaos than the equations of fractire geometly, you know.'

 'I do.'

 'Then you  should arso know that, just as the archemists of Ord Tella wele wont to depict the penis as a 'magic wand', so it was discoveled that 'wanding' ol usage of that palticural instrument of sexuarity has a 'magicar' effect equivarent to that of the tlanceiver with legald to a few speciar individuars - youlserf maybe.'

 'Well, I'll try anything once or...multitudinousry.'

 'Are you speaking metapholicarry or murtivelsarry?'

 'As a colleague of mine once said, 'Metaphallically speaking.'

 'Thele ale no coincidences in the Murtivelse - all is synchlonisticarry adapted.'

 'Well, let's see if we can plug into our adaptor.'

 'Thele's no joke in what you say MAP. The mare/femare synthesis which the Tantric sex yogis advocate  is an integlal paltof 'wanding'.It is necessaly,withoutthe magic of the tlanceiver wand,for Shamanista Losie to act as an adaptor/channer folthe frowof our enelgies,that is, to focus upon the dilection we wish fol in telms of murtivelsar access.'

 'Can't we just wank?'

 'When I was a chird, we had a chirdrlen's saying in the prayglound, 'wanking makes you bonny', which is a collupted velsion of a rongel nursely lhyme in which '...the chird that is boln on the Sabbath Day is bonny and brithe and good and gay.' The wolrd 'Bonny' meaning 'pletty to rookupon'. Rater stirr, howevel, I learised that the schoor lhyme lefelled to the One King  [that] makes you bo(w [the] knee)ny, that is, God.'

 'Who, of course, frowns on masturbation and sex-before-marriage.'

'Not quite. He or lather SHe flowns on 'adurtely' or sex inside malliage with othel paltnels - don't ask me why, I don't know. But the message is creal. Sex is magic and its powel shourdn't be abused.'

 'Um, well, let's think about that after we've had our little interview with Maisie.'

 'Jovian acolns.'

 'Huh?'

 'It's an expression I picked up on one of the moons alound Jupitel; it means 'arlight, well then'...'

 

                                                                                                *

 

 Shamanista Rosewine was prepared.MAP and Lu entered the suite of rooms she'd obtained for herself (Magically probably, or possibly [or almost certainly - ed.] ) as she'd been about to take a shower. Flipping off the bathrobe, she paraded before them like one of the showgirls MAP sometimes visited in their dressing cubicles at the 'EYE LUST 2' nightclub on Satyricon XII.

 'Would you care to join me in a champagne shower?'

 'What ale we celeblating?' wondered Lu.

 'Who cares?' demanded MAP.

 'Who cares wins,' Rosie pronounced.

 'Okay, but I like to know the reason for my partyin' that's all,' MAP grumbled.

 'We're celebrating my engagement.'

 'Oh, conglaturations Ms Maisie! Who's the rucky spacel?'

 'Thank you Dr Lu! I don't know yet.MAP is my type. An action man. But you have that indefinable quality that girls die for.'

 'No suicidar tendencies prease!'

 'None to speak of. Well, gentlemen - ?'

 ' - I'm not a man, deal. The collect folm whele I hair flom is 'magentren'.'

 'Well, gentleman and magentlan. Do you want me - or not! I want you to wand me.'

 'Isn't that a song by an Old Terran band called Cheap Trick?' mused MAP.

 'Touché!' Maisie acknowledged the jab.

 'I want to wand you,' Lu affirmed.

 'Me too,' said MAP suddenly decisive, 'in fact I wand you to want me,' he said, exposing his own swelling manhood and teasing it erect.

 'Impressive, but I think Dr Lu wins by a head - or several,' Shamanista observed drily (or was that wetly - ed.). I don't think we'll bother with that shower after all - if you don't mind a horny sweaty girl, that is.'

 'We can stand it. I think I'm unanimous in that,' MAP thought.

 'He speaks fol us arr, I think,' thought Lu.

 'It's all getting a bit cerebral for my liking, are we going to make magic or not?' Maisie pouted poutily.

 'What kind of magic shall we make Doc?'

 'What's youl favoulite peloiod in histoly?'

 'None.But I'm a fan of old sci-fi.'

 'Me too. How about Asimov's  'lobot' yalns?'

 'Looking good. How about you Rosie?'

 'I'm game.'

 'Game on' then lady - and magentlan. Let's make magic.'

 

                                                                                                *

 

The most interesting position from the point of view of a behavioural pschologist was probably the sight of Rosewine sucking on the Doc's redstick while her butterfly-like fingers, fluttering delicately over the magentlan's hairy breasts, played on the shaft of hir gigantic penis with a clarinetist's virtuousity and she, sitting on MAP' shorter, thicker 'wizard's staff', rode upand down buggering herself in the ass like the proverbial monkey-on-a-stick.Unsatiated but fully saturated with sweat the three finally collapsed in a tangle of limbs,  hair, bedclothes and frustration.

 'What say we hit the street and see if our conjuring has abracadabra'd anything for us?' MAP ventured.

 'I want two Phoenicians' stated the Doc flatly.

 'I don't remember there being any Phoenicians in Tolkein or C.S. Lewis,' said MAP.

 'None at arr. You'le quite light. But Rewis was wliting an arregoly, a veired seclet, the tluth of which halks back to the lace that ploduced those led-hailed Gleek heloes Agamamnon and Meneraus, the enemies of Palis whose passion fol theil sistel Heren red to the farr of Tloy.The Phoenicians wele an immoltar lace chalactelized by theil hail corouling and a certain animaristic interrigence that red to theil being poltlayed in myth and regend as harf-human, harf-goatish cleatules commonry known as 'fauns', that is, a colluption, tluncation,' the Doc coughed half-apologetically, half-proudly ' -solly to be such a pedant - and abbleviation of 'Phoenecian'. At any late, I want two of the led-hailed rittre devirs.'

 'Why fauns?' enquired Shamanista.

 'Fol theil stlaightfolwaldness and aglessivery sexuar appetites, to be stlaightfolwald and aglessive about my sexuar appetites.'

 'And how do you propose to obtain these delectable creatures?' asked MAP.

 'Uncleations, to be mole plecise, the Phoenicians wele not, regend has it, cleated by God.They ale, as it wele, ple-existent in telms of the Cleation.'

 'Before Eden you mean?'

 'Ret's just say that, befole God cleated man, he made  a few rittre expeliments and arrow me to lefel you to the regend of Ririth in the Galden, a snakerike femare cleatule with whom Adam is supposed to have had coitus befole the advent of Eve.'

 'And the obtaining of these homunculi?'

 'I'rr demonstlate,' and with that the good doctor extricated hirself from the entanglement and, having dressed, headed for the cool night air closely followed by hir two - though they strove to hide the fact from hir - now frantically curious companions.

 Soon the three were standing on a nearby street corner, the Doc's entourage waiting expectantly while their mentor blew hard on hir fingers and flexed them frenetically to improve circulation and, as it turned out, dexterity. Leaning into the light wind, s/he faced the traffic passing by, observing the various logos, faces and number plates as s/he did so. After a while, s/he saw this on the side of a van: TELEPHONE SUPPLIES

 'One has to think symboricarry in these cases,' the Doc informed them, 'telepathy is palt of this plocess, I feal and 'phone' probabry sounds enough  rike 'faun' to suggest we'le on the light tlack.'

 A few minutes later, the flame-haired symbol of a she-devil appeared in connection with some innocuous brand of cosmetics and, seconds later, the Doc, observing a car with the number FON 2, raised two fingers, giving a V-for-victory sign to the driver, then reversed the signal in that time-honoured Delta-of-Venus gesture suggesting readiness for sex.The creature inside the vehicle, MAP couldn't readily describe the thing he saw as human (for one thing it had no hair and scaley skin of a greenish hue), leered expansively and, using thumb and forefinger, pointed in the direction of a medieval church some four hundred metres away.The Doc, spurred on by hir apparent success, spun on hir heel and made off at a fast clip towards the not-too-distant crenellated rectangle outlined in darker darkness against the darkening sky.More minutes went by in unpremeditated unspoken consensual silence, noone wishing to break what might be the delicate fragility of their spellbinding when, suddenly, capering in front of the triumvirate, two slight, mischievously smiling, laughing-eyed, fire-haired, diminutively buxom but-quite-evidently-female -fauns!

 The Doc,  nodding at first one, then the other, leaned forward slightly, cocked both arms at the elbow and, with feline alacrity and grace, the two immortals hooked what might have been forepaws through the loops made for them by the Doc who, hands on hips, marched off accompanied by hir two new friends, pausing only to shout cheerily into the breeze.

 'Arways wanted a mobire faun ol - two!'

 'Well, hirs happy enough,' observed MAP, 'but what about us?'

 'Let's try wanding.'

 'I wand you.'

 'I know, but let's have some fun first.Show me yours and I'll show you mine -well, if I had one.'

 'Here, have one of mine.'

 'You have two?! An ithyphallic man is hard to find these days.'

 'Metaphallically speaking?'

 'More than one 'wand' darling. Don't disturb yourself  about it. Just press the green stud near the base of your plastic penis extension and make a wish.'

 'Like this?' MAP held up his technological tool, closed his eyes, and said 'Mellon.'

 'Melon?' You want to eat? At a time like this?'

 'No, 'Mellon' was the elvish  word, meaning 'friend', that the wizard Gandalf had to 'say' in order to escape the 'thing in the lake' and enter the fabled silvermines of Moria in Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.I'm trying to access Middle Earth and, in particular, Tom Bola territory.'

 'Tom Bola..?'

 'Patience my little sex bomb. 'Hola! Tom Bola! Tom Bola Dildo! With his green prophylactic and his pervy jello!!' I'd like to meet him - and his lady Merrymelons, a charming creature if I recall rightly.'

 'I'm sure, and with big fat knockers to boot I'd swear.'

 'Knock knock!'

 'Who's there?'

 'Tom.'

 'Tom who?'

 'Tomb.'

 'Tomb who?'

 'Tomb it may concern.'

 'I don't get it.'

 'You will,' breathed MAP softly slipping to one side, just slowly enough for Shamanista to follow his progress with her eyes and go after him.

 Unerringly, as if by some preternatural instinct, MAP weaved his way amidst broken angels, unhaloed saints, crumbling statuary in various states of terminal decay depicting anything and everything from beheaded infants to befanged vampirellas, before disappearing from view down what turned out to be a twisting flight of stone steps leading to a rather noxious crypt in which appeared to lie atop a sarcophagous of weeping granite, a further example of the stonemason's art in the shapeof an armourless (or should that be 'armless? - ed.) fatman.

 'Ho!' called MAP.

 'Ho!' echoed the reply. 'And who is it that disturbs the rest of Poor Tom and his lady fair? Speak or I'll 'say'!'

 ''Say' and I'll sing Tom B.'

 'That's not me name. Me name's not Tommy.You can't leave here if'n you can't say me name.'

 'I know you Tom Bola Dildo!'

 'Ach! Me name. He knows me name. Curses. I'm bound to please.The gifts of hospitality are yours good sir - and madame? Ah! 'Tis a pleasure to behold a maiden other than Merrymelons tho' she be all the world to Poor Tom and that's God honest truth I tell ye.'

 'Cut the crap Tom. Save the Old English speel for the tourist trade.This is Shamanista -'

 ' - Enchanted.'

 'Sorry to hear it.'

 'Yes, well...I have a business proposition -'  MAP hurried on.

 ' - Always happy to oblige a fellow entrepeneur.'

 'You? What..?'

 'Oh, we do a roaring trade in Silmarils, you know - those 'seeing' and 'saying' crystals, you 'see' and then you 'say'.'

 'We call them televisions.'

 'No razzamatazz. No magic tinglings.No...fun!'

 'Maybe so. Anyway, here's the deal. A  fuck for a fuck. Me and Rosewine. You and Merrymelons.'

 'Done.'

 'And I will be, I know.'

 'Provided my lady likes thee mortal, and if she does I'll throw in a couple of crystal simulators - I mean Silmarils of course.'

 'At least technological terminology hasn't bypassed you Tombo.Okay, and we might be able  to do something for you but, no promises and, speaking of something to do, where is the lovely Merrymelons?'

 'Open the box.Open the box,' giggled Tombola maniacally.'Open the box.Open the box,' he back-flipped and somersaulted cat-like onto the stone flagging.

 'Sure,' dared MAP, stepping forward and easing aside the heavy coffin lid with hand and shoulder to expose palewhite flesh, scarlet hennaed hair and luminescent blue-white orbs shining piercingly into his own.

 'My nearly departed,' quoth Tom, 'not dead, just sleeping, except when I wake her up for a little sexercise.'

 'You're a monster,' Shamanista opined definitively.

 'And you're a victim of penis envy.'

 'I am not!'

 'You are so too!'

 'Aren't!'

 'Are!'

 'Aren't!'

 'Cool it guys.Just whatis the situation here Tombo?'

 'Well, it's rather delicate actually. While tracing our genealogical heritage, Meri and I discovered that, genetically speaking, we're  siblings, and now it's 'Sis-Tomb-Hah!' (what a 'dil' -ed.). She went into a coma - from which I periodically wake her, fuck her and tuck her up again; the doctor's say it's the best therapy, and I'm not going to disagree, she'd developed a tongue with a cutting edge (a filleting rather than a fellating mouth one might justifiably say) in recent years and, truthfully, I prefer her this way.'

 'But it's necrofilial.'

 'Yes miss, but it's fun.'

 'Poe dick justice I suppose. Can't argue with that. My turn?'

 'Help yourself. She won't know. All the lights come on,but it's a nobody home scenario.Get the picture?'

 'Well developed.' MAP reached into the sepulchral chamber, hoisted the occupant onto a brawny thigh and carried the lifeless lump over to a dingy corner of the crypt where gasps, sighs and groans ungraphically unequivocalized what was taking place.

 'Tom began, 'My dear-'

 ' - Button it buster.Penis envy my ass.'

 'Mine does, I assure you -'

 '- And if you think I'd let a necrotic necrophile like you anywhere near my neuroses, you're mistaken. Beat it Tubbo!'

 'Who do you think I am? The sixth Marx brother? Listen, gobble my goblin and I'll give you a prize.'

 'No dice.'

 'No way?'

 'Aw, you got me. If you say 'A' I have to play, it's the lore. How do you want it?'

 'Well, here on the floor.'

 'Jovian acorns.'

 'Eh?'

 'It rhymes.'

 

                                                                                                *

 

 'Here are your silmarils,' offered Tom.

 'Thanks.'

 'Me too,' Shamanista grinned.

 'You enjoyed that?'

 'Sure.The part where you took your hat off, flew around the room three times saying 'Polly put the kettle on, we'll all have tea' was the most unusual climax I've ever seen - and clean too.'

 'I'm glad you thought so,' Tom looked a bit sheepish, 'I don't do that with just any old Tom's Dick (or Harry's - ed.).'

 'And the proof of the pudding -'

 ' - is in the gobbling.Thank you miss Maisie. May I present you with this as a token of our esteem?' he gestured towards the far corner where MAP, still wheezing and gasping, kept up his end of the bargain,  'it's a ring. Some nosey habbit (psilocybin junkie) dropped asleep in that chair once and I substituted one of my own. The poor creature was quite mad I hear. Thought it could fight Sore Ron singlehanded. Anyway, it's yours if you want it.

 'Oh, I wand it alright. What's it say, by the way?'

 

                                                            'Three for the sex-magi - ghouled, frank incest and - murrggh!

                                                            Five for the head-fucking dwarfs in their halls of skulls,

                                                            Seven for the elven pederasts in the bedquilts,

                                                            Nine for mortal men, domed because circumcised,

                                                            One ring to bugger them all,

                                                            One ring to mine them,

                                                            One ring to bung them all,

                                                            And in the darkness grind them.'

 

'Interesting.'

'Not overly so,' I think you're friend's finished.

 The shadows parted as MAP stalked out of the gloom, pausedto assess the situation, pressed the green stud on his wand and closed his eyes.There wasa faint shimmering in the darkness, a sour-sweet greenish-blue glow and out of the black stumbled the rosy-cheeked form of Merrymelons, eyes glistening with tearfulness and - recent orgasm.

 'Oh Tom, I never thought we'd be together like this ever again. Are those shoes muddy? You need a shave. Have you hoovered recently?'

 'Thank you. Both of you. I'll never forget this...er...great boon,' said Tom striving to look grateful, 'it's a wonderful miracle,' he continued downcast, 'I'll never be able to repay you,' he averred with a curious gleam in his eye, 'won't I?'

 'The pleasure's all mine Tom,' said MAP fulsomely, 'she's a great fuck.'

 

* The author's initials are RLU - hence the name Dr Lu. It's a curious phenomenon, moreover, that the Chinese reverse the letters 'R' and 'L'  when speaking English. It is, perhaps, this curiosity which caused hir to tax the reader's patience in this way.

 

Robin Usher

 

robika2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

The House that Map Built

 

”We’ve installed the sonics in three structures with the appropriate vibrational acoustics,” said one of the twelve heads on the conference monitor.

”Churches.”

”The artwork is in accordance with those archetypal contents of the collective human brain that we had to ”trigger” in order to produce the ‘historical projection’ effect,” said another head of the technological hydra.

 ”Icons.”

 A triumvirate of architectonic excellence resurrecting the essence of Medieval Europe in the shape of a refurbished Gothic chapel in the heart of Pest’s ”downtown” 8th district, a Shinto shrine created somewhat whimsically in the foyer of the Sonypan building in Student’s Square, and a Hindu temple replete with pornographic statuary and houri holos in Buda’s Robika , formerly known as ‘Moszkva’ Square,” said a head looking as if it belonged in a hole in the ground on Easter Island.

”Churches - again.”

”Each construction, though new, is careful to maintain the principles of the original builders, which is to say that, if these forms of worship system had been allowed to develop organically instead of becoming atrophied or extinct, then those forms would bear more than a passing resemblance to the Gothic, Shinto and Hindu transmitting stations now projecting the prayer energies of their devotees in EurAmAsias Budapest,” continued the stony-faced head.

”Churches - with bells on.”

”Results so far indicate that the atmosphere in the immediate environment of our experimental ‘laboratories of the spirit’ is changing the fabric of what passes for reality in the first citystate of the Pan American Eur-Asian Confederacy, that is, we've begun to hear reports of black magic, UFOs and drug orgies,” a female head mouthed fish-like.

”Sorcerers, saucerers and...er...sauciness.”

”We're going to send you to investigate,” said three heads simultaneously.

”Thanks.”

”But we want you to pay a visit to the Jung-Usher Institute in Zurich, to receive a new enhancement programme for your borg component,” said a head in a very bad wig.

”Thanks - again.”

”You’re to be fitted with a tesseract holo,” ventriloquized a head because, as far as MAP could tell, no lips moved.

”It’s rather like a mobile home, except it can be turned on and off as and when you require it, an extension of the ‘backlash’ principle - except it’s carried around inside,” enthused an unenthusiastic head’s face.

”Evolution.”

”Sorry?” a head or three gaped.

”The first creatures on Earth were invertebrates, molluscs, protection was external, an exoskeleton, snails, for example; later came the vertebrates, internal protection, skeletal frames, bones, that is.”

”I. see. Evolutionarily speaking, internal housing is the logical way to go,” heads nodded in unison.

”Churches.”

”Hm? A head inclined and the rest followed suit.

”My body is a temple.”

”Hmmm. Well, your...er...”temple” will be trans-dimensional. Operating in an internalised dream-space where the laws of the space-time continuum are in abeyance access to the physical world is reduced to a simple decision-making process, for example, where do I. want to be? We’ve made it even easier for you by incorporating doors within your ‘holo insides’ through which you can ‘visit’ real space.”

”Churches, for example,” concluded MAP concluding the conference.

 

                                                            *

 

Professor Usher had personally supervised the implanting of the holo projectors into MAP’s retinal cavities. He’d been careful to explain the difference between the hard light externality and the newly functioning dark light system.

”What we perceive as reality is made up of particles, photons mainly, fluctuating wave forms, more fluid in the case of living beings, less so in the case of inanimate material, which is why chairs don’t ask you to stand up for a while because they’re tired.

 Dark light works in a similar way, but it’s more malleable, dreamstuff if you like. A darklight system allows the user to create a world that is real for him/her internally, an environment as ”real” as the one outside.”

”So what happens to the ‘real’ body when the ‘user’ is ‘getting his shit together’ on the inside?”

”In your case nothing - nothing harmful, that is. You’re invisi-suit’s defenses will make sure of that. You might ‘wake up’ in unusual or unfamiliar surroundings, but your safety is guaranteed. We can give you a warranty if you wish.

”Thanks.”

”You want one?”

”I. wand one!”

 

                                                                                                *

 

 Entering the holo housing wasn’t much different from walking from one block to another and, in fact, that was the illusion created by his reverse imaging deep dark-light emittance retinal (RIDDLER’S) system. As he passed into Rebus Emese street - once Bajcsy Zsilinsky utca - from Heroes’ Square, MAP subvocally instructed his cyborg compsole to activate RIDDLER’S and walked into the foyer of the SONYPAN building. The Shinto shrine in the centre of the reception area seemed traditional enough; dwarf elements of an arboretum, a few pet rocks, that is, rocks chosen for their porousity and osmotic attributes making them suitable vessels for microscopic denizens of the insectoid and multi-coloured moss-developing spore varieties. The closed ecosystem had a tiny mountain in its centre, organically created in the way of stalactites and stalagmites, its twin hanging suspended from the rotunda a couple of hundred feet above, leaving MAP only able to gape in wonder at how the usual centuries had been bypassed in the creation of this symbiotic biosphere. Somehow the ingredients had been made to produce an atmosphere and - MAP’s lips curved in delighted surprise - not only tiny white clouds floating a foot or so above the stalacmite (which might, though it obviously never would - reach its stalactite twin clinging tight to the domed roof high above), but also rivulets, waterfalls, streams and a serpentine river flowing into the artificially situated but with total integrity in terms of its growth processes, surrounding and protectively moat-like ‘sea’. As MAP scrutinized the edifice more closely, he perceived that the mountain, a minute version of Fuji, was hollowed out and guarded, as it were, by a pair of futuristic Samurai, complete with outlandish headgear and everyday weapons in sympathy with their ancient preceptors. MAP couldn’t quite penetrate the murky interior with his normal sight, but the infra-red nightsight of his invisisuit informed him that the inside of the mini-Fuji contained some kind of sophisticated machinery presumably of the sort capable of transforming the energizing devotions of the shrine’s devotees according to the aims of its programmers.

 A sudden shower of rain, obviously not from the fluffy cottonesque shapes floating serenely in front of the Matisse on the wall behind Mt. Stalacmite, caused MAP to blink and look up, before looking down at the only other possible source of liquid refreshment and a small fountain on what at first sight seemed a small island floating in the midst of the circular ‘sea’. A second such outpouring and downpouring found him revising his opinion and his estimation of this tiny worldlet, for periodically surfacing and disappearing back into the ‘depths’ were, he forced himself to file the information under ‘proven data’, miniature whales, tiny versions of their humungous counterparts in the vaster oceans of macroscopic Earth.

”What,” he muttered aloud, ”would Jonah make of this?”

”Or Gulliver,” chuckled a voice to his left and one metre down.

 The  source of the interjection was a small green creature complete with teevee-like antennae in the top of his/her/its head familiar to MAP from his boyhood experiences with scifi magazines such as Astoundingly Amazing and Amazingly Astounding.

 ”Where’s your flying saucer greenie?”

 ”It’s more of a sauce-boat in shape and, I. suppose, a magic lamp in function, a vessel of which I. am, as it were, the informing principle or genius.”

”The genius of the sauce-boat. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.”

”Rings are different things altogether - ask any passing hobbit.”

”I. know. I. asked Tom Bombadil once.”

”Oh, you’ve had T.B.?”

”And his ‘lady fair’ who, as it happens, turned out to be more virulent than T.B. in the sense that, thanks to the hospitality of ‘Old Tomb’, she succeeded in passing on the AIDS virus to Yours Truly.”

”Hardly a catastrophe nowadays.”

”No, nut the cure, though pleasant, is time-consuming, and I. had business elsewhere.”

”Experience too, I. suppose?”

”Sidhe whores are rich because of the curative properties of their sexual juices - descendants of the red-haired Phoenician immortals (fauns to Bombadil and his ilk) - their much valued labours don’t come cheap.”

”So, very expensive then?”

”Space Marine Command foot the bill in my case, but ‘fucking fairies’ definitely isn’t (or aren’t - ed.) now presented as a high priority task in mission briefings for in-the-field operatives - me, for instance.”

”And T.B.?”

”Last I. heard he’d become a coprophile.”

”Dirty business,” sniffed the genius of the sauce boat.

”Smells bad,” MAP agreed.

”Leaves a nasty taste in the mouth for all concerned,” ventured the saucerer.

”Very difficult to swallow,” MAP confirmed. ”Where’s your sauce-boat by the way?”

”In yon grotto. The Blackpool illuminations effect behind the SAM-U-RAY units is due to its signal beacon flashing on-and-off. It came on automatically when I. answered a distress call from what seemed to be a Rigelian spacelord-in-agony and materialized inside a toy Japanese mountain surrounded by microscopic whales and business-suited orientals wielding pocket-sized telecommunications systems and jabbering about ‘futures’ and ‘the future’ while making obeisances to Fuji and the illuminated sauce boat contained within.”

”Looks more like a magic lamp from here,” said MAP, screwing up his eyes, kicking in his ‘third-eye’ and focusing on the innards of the structure. ”Complete with handle, lid and spout,” he maintained as, surroundings melting away in a haze of irrelevancy, his ESP capability discovered within this Aladdin’s cave a UFO of curious provenance.

”I. can explain everything satisfactorily from the point of view of aerodynamics, propulsion systems and the design needs of highly developed technologies,” the small green alien doughtily affirmed.

”Can’t you do something about that million candle power strobe effect, it’s getting on my wick?” said MAP eyes bulging in concentration and pain.

”Sorry. It’ll keep on till I. convince it that the Rigelian spacelord’s agony is over. I.’m a doctor, you see.”

”Ah. Um. Not just a ‘genie of the lamp’, but an ’angel with a lamp’, a Florence Nightingale to boot. Well Flo (short for flourescent presumably - ed.), where’s the patient?”

”There isn’t one. But, one thing I.’m sure of, the sauce-boat was responding to a genuine signal.”

”Probably something to do with the Sonypan organic transmitter built into the acoustics of the Shinto design and activated by their incessant and intense preoccupations with an approach to money-making through technology that is positively idolatrous.”

”Or the spiritual equivalent of, for example, a spacelord in agony?”

”Can I. see your sauce-boat?”

”If you can get past the SAM-U-RAY. I. can show you pictures though.”

”How did you get past them?”

”Nobody seems concerned about me too much. It’s the sauce-boat that fascinates them. I. wander round with impunity here. I. drink coffee and eat doughnuts in the boardroom while they discuss technological possibilities and financial remuneration with regard to the research potential of the object inside their scale model of Mt. Fuji, play three-some squash with them inside their sports centres, indulge in troilism while they’re having sex with their wives or secretaries on the desks in their offices... Noone seems to mind.”

”Let’s see the pictures.”

”This is my wife,” said the alien with the teevee antennae sticking out of the top of its pointed green head, ”and my mother-in-law,” indicating a fortyish and fetishistically fat pair of naked green aliens with four breasts each, ”isn’t she adorable?”

”Ugh!” MAP ejaculated convulsively. ”Wow! I. mean,” he recovered himself just in time to note a momently passing shadow of some obscure emotion - homesickness? - passing fleetingly across the mien of his short green friend, ”won’t you show me piccies of the sauce-boat please?”

”Oh, that!” grunted the dwarfish saucerer huffily and holding up another flat tri-D holo.

”I. see,” said MAP scrutinizing a very large sauce-boat with his diminutive green buddy standing alongside. Flipping the hol over to look at the other side of the peculiar contraption, he could barely suppress a laugh when, to his amusement, he saw written on the other side of the UFO the letters S.O.S., ”it’s an S.O.S. minimediship.”

”That’s what I. said, a sos boat.”

”I.’ll have to reflect on this,” MAP said reflectively, ”wait here,” he ordered and walked through a door marked GENTS, turned left through an archway that wasn’t in the building plans, entered a softly lit room with soft insistently relaxing music gently straining the air around him, and sat down in a hardly upholstered leatherplas sofa before a tri-D monitor screen showing soft-focus aerial scenes of the verdant green and dun swathes of the sandy Martian plains just a few million kilometres - thataway! He pointed a forefinger dramatically in an arbitrary direction and slumped into a ruminative posture.

 He awoke to the sight of Larry King clone #15 interviewing a Sting clone #8; they were discussing the possible reforming of the Police and the Sting clone was trying to explain the complicated procedures involved in deciding whether or not to use Andy Summers clone #12 or #7. Apparently the Stewart Copeland clones #17 and #27 preferred Summers clone #12, while Copeland clone #32 preferred Summers clone #7. The task was made slightly easier by the fact that Copeland #32 had lost one of his driving arms in a motorcycle accident, and the cybernetic prosthetic had difficulties with ‘Walking on the Moon’ and ‘The Jumping Jews of Jupiter’ because of the syncopation. So, Sting had decided, it was a toss up between Copeland clones #17 and #27. He tended to favour the elder clone because it demonstrated a ‘bit of class’, using original 80s hair gel and one of the real Summers’ ancient guitars (Copeland clones were also prone to suiciding for no discernible cause, which suggested that #17 had, so to speak, a certain amount of ‘staying power’. In the final analysis it didn’t much matter because Sting #8, in typical rock star style, decided to form a new supergroup featuring the new Hendrix, Bonham and Garcia holograms. The name of the band was still under discussion, but so far ‘The Grateful Electric Dead Dick Ladyland Experience’ was favourite. MAP yawned, sat up, consulted the chronometer at the top right hand corner of the tri-D, got to his feet and made his way back to the GENTS.

 

                                                                        *

 

 His short green friend was still writing by the side of the moat. He seemed to be struggling with something and MAP, sensing danger, rapidly closed the distance between them.

”Hi!” said the saucerer. ”I. think I.’ve got one.”

”One what?”

”A squirter.”

”Uh?” MAP stood bemused while a shower of tiny droplets fell about his neck and shoulders. ”Uh-hum,” he belatedly recalled the - presumably very expensive - miniature whales in the Shinto microcosm as, with a quick jerk on the length of superstring it was using, the saucerer pulled a mini-leviathan from the depths and deposited it thrashing wildly around on the parquetry.

”Now what?” asked MAP.

”Nothing. I. just wanted to see if  I could do it,” said the green-about-the-gills Ahab.

”It’s white.” MAP observed.

”Moby Dick?”

”Dick?”

”Dick.”

”Dick.” Echoed MAP automatically, his sense of reality beginning to seem tenuous even by his standards.

”Well, now you have done it,” he indicated the previously stalwartly static samurai now whirling their lightswords in unison and eyes blazing with blue fire, ritualistically flexing their plasteel armoured knee-joints in preparation for a ‘Great Leap Forward’ across the moat separating them from the infidel despoilers (he means fishing poachers - ed.).

”Quick. To the Gents.”

”Shouldn’t that be something like, ‘Quick Robin. To the Batmobile!’?”

”Is your name Robin?”

”No. It’s Smee.”

”I. know it’s you sir.”

”No, I.’m not ‘U’ sir.”

”Of course you’re not me sir, you’re you!”

”Smee.”

”I. know it’s you sir!”

”Forget it. Just call me ‘U’,” the alien stuck two fingers under MAP’s nose.

”Why? You...you...” MAP grew purple with rage.

”Not ‘Y’, ‘U’ you...you...” the saucerer began to grow greener with some kind of vaguely equivalent emotion, but by that time they’d reached the haven of the lavatory and MAP, from out of the corner of his eye detecting the shapes of the Samurai leaping across the watery barrier, seized his unruly comrade by the shoulder and thrust him head first into the cubicle.

 Not a moment too soon! The sorcerer, apoplectic with uncontrolled spleen, commenced projectile vomiting, large gobbets of virulent shades of greenish bile being ejected and splattered against the closet walls. MAP, locking the door and leaving the alien to its fate, made a left turn into a wall where suddenly there was none and returned to his former position in front of the tri-D where Larry #15 was interviewing the three Stewart Copeland clones who were outlining their own plans for a rather unlikely ‘supergroup’ featuring all of the surviving Copeland clones, the main feature of their performing together being the suicide of one or more of their number during the hit-record ‘Message in a Bottle’, the exact timing rather uncertain because the pills that they took from the ‘bottle’ at the beginning of the gig didn’t work at the same rate with different metabolisms, so it was possible for one clone to ‘suicide’ during ‘De do de do, De da da da (that’s all I. want to say to you’, while another would pop-his-clogs to the strains of ‘So Lonely’. Still, it was more fun for the audience who could make bets on which of the drummers would keel over first and when. Fortunes would be won and lost in this fashion. One girl would become a multimillionaire five times over during one memorable evening at the Hackney Empire in London when, thanks to ‘insider’ information, she predicted both drummer, song and ‘trajectory of collapse’, but that’s another story...

 MAP, retracing his steps back to the W.C. put his arm through the no-wall, felt around for a second or two, gripped onto a piece of, probably, soft green flesh, and hauled.

”Yowwchh!” squealed the saucerer, appearing inside RIDDLER’S tesseractile innards clutching a crumpled cauliflower-like ear and kicking out wildly at tits unknown assailant.

”Oh, it’s you,” it said, becoming more tranquilised a the sight of carpets, sofa, armchairs, firelight and tri-D.

”Make yourself comfortable, greenie, and don’t vomit on the fixtures and fittings, I. want the place to be habitable when I. get back.”

”From where?”

”I. have to do a spot of nightstalking at a Gothic chapel in Sector 8, reports of ‘dark forces’, ‘evil manifestations’, ne’er do-wells’ etc., I. have to investigate.”

”Oh, how twee. You’re a plod, a bobby, a copper, a rozzer...”

”A bit pissed off with you. Want to come?”

”Okay.”

 

                                                                        *

 

 The Chapel, as the incongruously tall, blonde and dwarfishly green pair passed through one of the tri-D lounge’s permeable walls into the updated religious artefacts environs, was lit up inside with an unholy light of sickly yellow ochre, amidst which strange gesticulations and gyrations from figures unseen but manically - if not maniacally - active. Growing closer our two disparate heroes found themselves drawn to a small oval casement window situated below ground level in what, upon closer examination, appeared to be some kind of catacomb or other species of burial chamber. Arrayed along both sides of the tomb - if such it was - were caskets; lead, brass, glass in a few cases, and some of bronze, silver gold and, at the far end of the crypt, MAP thought he could detect a red ruby glow which, he assumed, not very originally, was caused by rubies (Ruby’s what? - ed.).

 Meanwhile, his green goblin pal, bored with the static aspects of the spectacle, opted to kick a gaping hole in the archaological relic’s glass portal and, without waiting for MAP to register either amazement or chagrin, swung feet first through the opening and into the gaping mouth of a velvet lined teak coffin with brass fittings, the lid promptly falling on top of him; which might have been the end of the story if MAP, folowing his first inclination, had simply gaped and disappeared, leaving the recklessly determined goblin to its determined fate. Still, MAP was curious and, well, the green saucerer was sort of endearing in an alien kind of way. Ignoring the muffled cries and groans, he left the below stairs atmosphere and went to have a peek at the denizens of what he imagined was probably some kind of drugs orgy taking place amidst the relative aweful security surrounding a structure of worship with its aura of numinousity and intangible nole me tangere atmosphere.

 Not one to stand on ceremony, MAP took the flight of steps leading to the entrance archway three at a time, pausing  only to look up, check that the carved oaken portals were swung wide open in invitation and, disappointed, strode briskly (Calver the Brisk  would have been proud of him - ed.) into the vestibule where, in spiteof his being trained always to 'expect the  unexpected', even MAP was taken aback by the strangeness of the guardian set before the gathered congregation.

 At first he thought himself confronted by an effigy of the Hindu goddess Kali, but that image, he reminded himself harshly, properly belonged to a later sequence in Robika Square where, he felt sure, the god Robika would watch over and protect him from such spectral influences. Anyway, this shade had six arms (and two legs) or eight legs (or eight arms - ed.) depending on your point of view. Man-high spiders were an unusual sight at the best of times, MAP knew, but to find one so far from its home in the Arachnian star system was, to say the least, odd. No matter, moving three of its furry legs in concord, its multi-faceted eyes twinkling incuriously but watchfully while, all the while, a peculiar thrum-thrum-thrumming sound was emitted from some mysteriously unsleeping awareness within its hideous frame, MAP, unwilling to spare even a few moments to converse politely with the ugly creature (if such were possible) moved readily (Robika the Red would have been proud of him - ed.) past its monstrous form and into the sepulchral glow  pulsing at the heart of the inner sanctum of the chapel.

 The metaphor, it seemed, was an apt one. Apart from the grotesquerie in the shape of the forms casting fitful shapes against the opacities at the far limits of the outer gloom (walls, that is, ed.), that is, the walls (told you so - ed.), in a clearing at the centre of the thronged worshippers, was a fitfully pulsing heart of vast proportions, now throbbing weakly, its pulse sporadic and faint, yet still domnating its devilish devotees by virtue of the liquid pulsing sporadically from the multitude of home-made tubes, pipes, taps and siphons plunged haphazardly into every available centimetre of its formerly rose-hued but now pinkly pale-blue pericardeum, a pin-cushion-like effect which the gathering had created to feed their unquencheable need for that liquid which was the stuff of their vampiric lust.

 A scene of great irony in some ways, MAP felt himself thinking, the great heart, speared repeatedly by a multitude staking claim to their Satanic futures, that is, placing a stake in the manner of the traditional hunterof the 'undead', thrusting a pointed wooden shaft deep into the heart of  his/her victim.

 Cups, goblets, glasses and bowls littered the hall, guests and, judging by the howls and gurgles emerging periodically from the darker recesses of the cavernous chamber, revellers littering nooks, crannys, niches, pews and, the less particular or indifferent, those harsh stone flaggings and island tombstones that constituted the walkways and clearways of the Chapel's original tenants.

 MAP, perceiving that the weaknessof the energy source for this bizarre festival was nearing the zenith of its enfeeblement, recalled his alien 'contact' with an irritated sense of awoken responsibility.

 'By the bloated balls of Beelzebub,' he swore as the light from the dying source of life-renewing  ichor grew dim, 'where is that son-of-a-sauceboat?'

 Retracing his steps, back through the vestibule, stopping only to briefly acknowledge the - in other circumstances - laughably ridiculous attempts of the spiderman to offer access to the cloakless cloakrooms in return for non-existent numbered ticket-stubs, MAP took the steps four at a time in his headlong haste to reach the sarcophagous-imprisoned space-elf in the basement.

 In the 'steps' of his fairy friend, swinging feet-first through the wrecked casement window, MAP landed with a sickening crash on the lid of the coffin inside which the green gremlin lay encased and endangered due to that well-documented and proven convention between a short supply of air and suffocation.

 'Sorry little buddy. I'll have you out of there faster than it takes a sugar daddy vampire with a sweet tooth fairy - just as soon as I can get my tootsies liberated from the splintered remnants of this outsize shoe-box.'

 So saying, MAP, ankles and calves dully complaining about the splinters of teak hardwood embedded in their sinews, gingerly-yet-forcefully, extricated his feet from death's broken-yet-unyielding mould. Lowering himself from casket to the colder clamminess of the crypt's floorspace, MAP proceeded to prize open the coffin and, fearful now lest his erstwhile ally had gasped his last in the interim between, as it were, one heart-beat and another, clasped the proferred arm within, slinging its deceptively heavy occupant onto his back and made for the steps leading upward and outward from the place of entombment.

 'Have we been introduced?' asked a voice close to his ear.'I don't recall meeting you at the prosectorum?'

 'The what?' asked MAP, somehow disarmed by the gentleness of the enquiry.

 'It's an anatomist's term, loosely rendered it means 'theatreof operations'. I'm referring to the blood-letting, the draining of the Sacred Heart for the sake of its immortality-conferriing life-force, the 'blood-sucking leeches', the undead and undying, you know.'

 'Yes, of course,' said MAP, politely dropping the should-be corpse onto the floor and stomping  on its head until voice and body ceased bleating and sporadically thrashing respectively.

 'I wondered how long it would take you to get here,' said another more familiar voice somewhere above his head, 'it feels like I've been hanging around here for an eternity already.'

 'You might have been,' MAP informed the disembodies wraith floating in a greenish hazy nimbus somewhere above his - by now probably befuddled - head, 'and you might still be, if we don't get out of here pronto before the black brethren decide its time to retire for the evening.'

 'No problem for me,' said the will o' the wisp, 'I was just hanging around waiting for  you -' it continued in an offended tone ' - so I could say goodbye with a clear conscience,' and so saying, the genie of the sauceboat oozed gaseously through the shards of glass still ringing the rim of the casement window's frame, to resolidify and proffer a spindly yet surprisingly powerful green hand for MAP to clench and be pulled with yet more surprising ease into the freezing night air.

 'Cold, no?' MAP'squestion was more a statement of  fact.

 'Very,' agreed the imp.

 'Then I think a small conflagration is in order,' MAP announced, pulling at the incendiary grenades arrayed in neat pouches hung around his waist, and wrapped crosswise about chest and back beneath his shirt.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 Warming themselves before the blazing ruins of the Chapel, the screaming and oaths having ended a few hours ago, the saucerer began to relate something of his side of the night's recent events.

 'The one playing doggo was a vicious bastard. You were quite right to stomp him. I was getting ready to let him have it when you gave it to him yourself in fact.'

 'Of course you were.' agreed MAP.

 'He'd just ravaged a very pretty young vampirella with long blonde hair and sweet white skin. Must've been toothsome because he wasted notime in sinking his over-developed canines into her bosom. Horrific, but strangely erotic. Afterwards, he placed her in almost loving fashion inside one of the three Iron Maiden contraptions, you know, like the Egyptian mummies' sarcophagi but with spikes all over the inside of the box and lid, justto be sure, you know. A distasteful memory, but thanks all the same.'

 'Fangs for the mammaries?'

 'Those too.'

 'Which two?'

 'Two? Witch?'

 'What are you, an owl?'

 'It's a hoot, isn't it?'

 'I could think of funnier 'owlers.'

 'Do you want to drive our translator crazy? (too late - ed.) Come on. We have a date with destiny in Robika Square.'

 

                                                                                                *

 

 'Squares are magical,' MAP told his breathless companion - keeping up with the Great Man's long, easy stride was a hard job for a short-legged ufonaut, even if he/she/it was a big-headed genius (a ufomism for conceited; a slanderous case for CAR, the Commission for Alien Rights - ed. [where I come from 'big head' is a synonym for superintelligence - author] ),which is why our architectons chose Robika Square for the Hindu fuckfest, he became a patron saint of sex after refusing to accept the biblical Commandment 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery'. As a protestant, he felt duty bound to rebel against a restriction which his knowledge of Eastern belief  systems led him to believe that Tantricism - including group sex and a multi-partnered lifestyle - was a gateway to higher consciousness and spiritual fulfilment, a 'protest' he incorporated into his own behavioural pattern and for which he was persecuted randomly but systematically until salvation came in the shape of a young woman who loved him for himself. She it was who, allowing the persecutors to fall upon her, exemplifying her love, turning the weapons of the evil doers against themselves, though wallowing herself for  a time in the trough of pigs, emerged in radiance and truth to vindicate the man she worshipped.'

 'So, where's her memorial?'

 'Look for it in Heroes' Square. There's a bird with a rose in its beak perched on a goblet, no inscription, no clues as to its origin, the sculptor's name is not known, but the people know for whom the tiny bronze statue was made.'

 'Sounds like another sob story,' mumbled the greenius, his trembling jaw and the tiny rivulet of slime trickling from beneath a wetly flickering eyelid belying his cynical demeanour.

 'Oh, he was an S:O:B alright,' agreed MAP, 'the sonofabitch let her go to the devil when she could've gone to the church.'

 'He sounds like some kind of monster.'

 'Noone should  judge by appearances, you should know that. But, in hisown way, Robika was a principled theologian, and his Beauty loved her Beast.'

 'All's well that ends well?'

 'Ask Bill Shakespeare, the bird, the rose, and the goblet will keep their silence forever.'

 'Isn't their story written down anywhere?'

 'Legend has it that the balladeers wrote songs about them; there's a classical piece by Metal Lickers titled Unforgiven Two (isn't that II? - ed. [ or too - author ] ) which might have been composed in their honour and, of course, the tragicomic operatta by László Níbor 'The Tale of Rosewine', is said to have been inspired by their ill-starred romance.

 'So why aren't we going to Heroes's Square?'

 'Fun.'

 'You work for F.U.N, the Federation of the United Nations?'

 'No, I work for P.E.N, capital P for pleasure, E for entertainment and N for naughty-but-niceness.'

 'Well, they do say that the pen is mightier than the sword.'

 'En garde, mon brave!'

 'Sorry?'

 'Okay, two choices. You can either stay here and keep the seat of that chair warm for my  return, or...' MAP got up and walked through a reproduction of a classic mural depicting the mating cycle of the Aldebaran horse tree, the flowform montage having just finished displaying scenes of nomadic tribesmen gelding a staglion, the single spongy testicle then being used in some ritualistic ceremony rather similar to the basketball of pre-federated Pan-America.Fighting the impulse to begin projectile-vomitting again, our green friend followed suit -and walked through the wall.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 They emerged in the middleof a male bonding ritual first performed in the third centuryof the Christian era, a  circleof  young men (thirteen in number) with beards in various states of growth, cleanliness and disorder moved about them in a ring, cock buried deep in the rectum of the one in front, chanting a refrain -

 

                                                            'You put your penis in,

                                                             You take your penis out,

                                                             In - out, in - out, shake it all about,

                                                             You do the pokey-pokey,

                                                             And you change around,

                                                             That's what it's all about!

                                                             Oh, do the pokey-pokey,

                                                             Oh, do the pokey-pokey,

                                                             Oh, do the pokey-pokey,

                                                             That's what it's all about! Poke-y!'

 

 Periodically, they would push a straw into a red-and-white striped container marked  'Cokey', snort some of its contents into their nostrils, and pop a colourful pill into their mouths from a tube marked 'Smart-Es'. After a while, the chain involuntarily collapsed when one of the beardies put his nose where his penis should've been and started snorting, thus causing a general revulsion, pairing off and subsequent dissolution of the men's 'sowing circle' (the embroidering of this tale seems to require a lot of 'spilt seed' -ed. [ and thereby hangs a tail- author] )

 'Where're the women?' demanded MAP in the way of a man of practice (Calver the Brisk would have been proud of him - ed.)

 'Probably in there somewhere,' said his green skinned comrade, pointing his extraterrestriedly glow-tip digit in the direction of a large bulbous stone edifice buried beneath a mass of carved statuary depicting every kind of sexual delight recognizable, a bit like the sight of snails mating on a rock in the middle of a stream during a flood, a seamless mound of unmoving greyness. Except that, with the snails' slow-mo 'love-in', this hill of flesh was in movement too, a barely perceptible shudder was discernible passing through the mass of intertwined bodies like electrical transmissions pulsing inside a cerebrum or the pulsing of blood vessels around a dying heart (shades of Ye Chapel Perilous - ed.)

 'I would have expected a bit more liveliness from an orgy,' MAP admitted.

 'I think you'll find there's a good reason for their restrained display,' his Lincoln Green vomit-bespattered comrade-in-arms replied, 'if you take a closer look you'll notice that the coitus in which they're engaged  is more of a punishment than a pleasure.'

 Stepping closer MAP was able to confirm his alien sidekick's strange hypothesis. Those embroiled  in what ought to have been the throes of passion were, in fact, in the throes of agonizing bliss, the males attached to the females by devilish devices of intricately torturous design; tiny but strong-as-steel contraptions linking penis and clitoris by means of piercing, strap  and harness, so that it was impossible for any participant to move more than a few millimetres without causing pain to another member (no,seriously - ed.) of the 'team'. Consequently, the entire gathering were kept in a perpetual state of arousal or almost-climax, always lacking that forceful thrust which would send them into orgasm, perpetually prevented through a mixture of enchainment and pain from achieving that desperately sought release and relief.

 Going even closer, MAP and the saucerer could see that not all of the shapes atop the fantastically decorated temple dome were recognizably human. MAP could detect, near the base, a female Balrog, bereft of its customary neuronic whip, its lion-head muzzled and its claws digging into the reluctantly yielding flesh of an Elephant-headed Ganesh as the well-matched - in terms of physical prowess - pair sought some kind of solace within their enforced predicament. Further up were-wolves and were-bears could be seen gnashing jaws and teeth together in bestial union amongst more acceptably traditional humanoid forms such as horny satires and nympho nymphs. At the apexof this living pyramid of lust wasa grotesquely beautiful being, its shaggy yellow pelt concealing whatever passed by unseen and unseeable beneath the thick hide, bowed forward illuminating and pulsating to the shuddering rhythms of its enslaved congregation.

 'What in  the nameof God is that?' exclaimed MAP.

“They have many names,” the alien told him,” but on my world they call them Shoggoths, Yog Shoggoth to be more precise; or, if you prefer, Iot Sokot. They’re renowned for their strangely ugly beauty. Feared by most, loved by some, but very few men or women of any race have been beloved by a Shoggoth, it’s a rare and beautiful thing indeed for a human to know what it is to be the love of such a creature rather than its pet, which can - and has - been the way of such symbioses in the past.”

 “Szmbioses?”

 “The Shoggoth, if it finds one sympathetic to it, enters into a parasitical union in which the host is simply a vessel, an instrument through which its will is manifest. But, occasionally the Shoggoth’s relationship becomes one of ‘protector’ for what it comes to think of as its ‘child’ and, in fact, the creature is preparing the ‘protected’ for rebirth – as a future Shoggoth.”

“How?”

“Remember the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts who went in search of the Golden Fleece?”

“I think so.” MAP frowned.

“Symbolically, Jason represents the transcendent man; the Cyclops Polyphemus is, as it were, his animal side, which is metamorphosed, in the case of his heroic struggle against gods, demi-gods, demons etc., into the Shoggoth symbolized by the Golden Fleece which heals all ills, conferring immortality and godhead.”

 “What if the Shoggoth doesn’t find its host sympathetic?”

“It’s quite clear actually. Enhancing the original talents of its prey, it enthuses the chosen tool with ambition and drive to achieve what it thinks of as its own desires, which of course the Shoggoth has no interest in.”

“What’s the Shoggoth’s interest then?” MAP wondered.

“It feeds on the emotions of its chosen victim.”

“Psychological vampirism.” MAP nodded his comprehension.

“Exactly.” Said the djinn of the S.O.S boat that looked like an Aladdin’s lamp.

“How can you tell the difference betweenn one who is beloved of a Shoggoth and one who is the victim of a Shoggoth’s parasitical vampirism?” MAP asked.

 “You can’t.” said the green genius flatly.

“Oh –” MAP couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to say even if he’d been allowed to speak further “- only upon death is it apparent whether or not the host has been victim or child, but the ‘hatchment’ rate is poor, maybe one in a billion could-be Shoggoth’s make it.”

“What happens in that case?” MAP’s interest and enthusiasm was now fully aroused (no Shoggoth there then, eh? – ed.).”

“The human structural components dissolve in the usual way of death and decay, but the essence; soul, spirit – whatever you choose to call it – remains to become the centre of a new structure which is the new Shoggoth.”

“Sounds simple,” MAP breathed deeply, somehow troubled by what he was  hearing.

“It is – and it isn’t. The essence of the host is imprisoned/protected  within a gaseous envelope which becomes more concentrated and crystalline upon its demise, and a period of incubation for the egg-like prism follows in which its occupant is vulnerable. If the ‘egg’ can be destroyed then there will be no new Shoggoth nativity. But the parent Shoggoth is usually ferocious in its defense of its ‘Chosen One’. Noone, believe me, would try to come between a Shoggoth and a host it had chosen to protect rather than devour.”

“Not exactly a safe bet.” MAP observed wryly.

“The disadvantages associated with being the pet of a Shoggoth are great, if  the Shoggoth chooses to devour the soul of its host rather than bless it with the gift of eternal power.”

“What’s this one doing then?” MAP inquired with sudden briskness (is this plagiarism – ed. [ask Calver – author]).

“Vampiristically draining the emotional energies of its worshipful adherents, I suppose,” supposed the alien, “in order to protect its hatchling, if I’m not mistaken.”

“You mean this is a one in a billion chance of a lifetime?”

“In more ways than one. It is, to say the least, unusual for anyone to be vouchsafed an opportunity to view the mewlings of a Shoggoth infant, but it seems we are to be honoured in that way for some inexplicable – at least to me – purpose,” MAP’s green-skinned acquaintance paused for breath and dramatic impact “unless the Shoggoth needs help, in which case our skills as midwives may be about to be put to the test. Follow me,” and with that the green genie increased its pace, surprising MAP by the speed of its surge, and entered the portico of the temple with its gigantic-in-comparison Space Marine ally striving to appear unobtrusively at-hand-in-case-of-emergencies.

 

                                                                        *

 

The portico was not barred against them, but as they entered a portcullis of medieval proportion clanged against the flagstones of the porch causing sparks and chips of masonry to fly as its dead weight was, rather than carefully lowered, carelessly dumped.

“Well, at least we’re in,” said MAP turning to peer at the early morning sunlight through the crisscross of rusty bolted iron bars, “and somebody definitely doesn’t want us to leave” he mused to himself cursorily examining those miniature impact craters created in the masonry at the base of the latticed frame.

“I don’t want to worry you,” said the apparent vegetarian (nobody but a chlorophyll addict could be this green), “but we’re not alone.”

 About-facing MAP quickly scanned the temple’s interior, his Cyborg component telling him that, according to infra-red image sensors, there were at least four humanoid figures awaiting their next move, but his eyes could have told him that much. From where he was standing, two figures could be seen, both female, each six-armed figure’s tongue thrust between her teeth and extending to below the jaw line where it flicked back and forth, to and fro, its point forked, redly wet and reptilian. As MAP watched, entranced for a second or two, the pair projected their prehensile appendages to the fullest extent and, as they did so, a blue burning between and above the shining lights of their eyes, heralded the blurring and apparent melting of skin as, at first struggling fitfully, then with more obvious haste and strength, the great eye burst open, its tri-lidded blink about the three sided and cornered triangular socket flapping randomly for a while before, focus being maintained, the lids ceased their commotion, relaxing quiescently in pancake-like folds besides the watchful Pyramidical.

“Looks like a job for Superman” mumbled the alien in a voice that seemed suddenly desolate and without hope.

“You’re not as green as you’re cabbage-looking,” observed MAP, pain already shooting through that spot in his brain which preceded the sundering of his own forehead and the destructive awesomeness of his own 'third eye'. Bracing himself for its deadly plasma bolt discharge, MAP's surprise at the mildness of the ray being emitted from his recently awakened orb was outweighed only by the interest it was arousing in the Pyramidicals, now four in number, the second pair having emerged from the shadows to flank their brethren in anticipation of...what?

 Part of MAP's awareness knew what was occurring, 'but the greater part remained simply an onlooker, a bystander, a spectator at an extraordinary event of which the outcome had been foreknown from the beginning of Creation' was how he'd later been heard to describ eit. Blue beams of Pyramidical light criss-crossed the stillness of the intervening air, lightning fast yet softly spoken communications flashed between the five figures, a pyrotechnical feather-light display of laser-light, instantaneous gigabytes of computerist codifications, burst of hieroglyphical imagery, explosions of colourful symbolisms, photonic streamsof almost-heard but never-spoken semaphoric neo-speech and telepathic blasts of need/desire/request/command.

 Then it was over. The Kalis folded their legs,arms, rolled back the triume lids of their Pyramidicals,and sat cross-legged before their would-be inquisitor,watching two-eyed and waiting,waiting...

 'The One Who Wants To Be Born,' intoned MAP hypnotically, 'It Waits Within,' and so saying, stumbled forward, his less than sanguine confederate dragging along in his wake.

 'Tralfalmadore was never like this,' complained the greenie 'or so I'm told,' he corrected himself, never having been to the fabled world of Vonnegutian folklore famous for its Ice-9 lollys and Piano bars.

 'Hush. Do not disturb the birthing module saucerer,' rasped the oddly transfigured SpaceMarine, 'we are called to perform a wondrously worthy task.'

 'Did you think that David Bowie was good in 'The Man WhoFell To Earth'?' interrupted the greenie of the S.O.S boat that looked more-like-a-lamp.

 'I  think he would have been better off with a 'Silver Machine' rather than that Tin contraption,' MAP announced, seemingly restored to himself once more.

 'Now, that was Hawkwind , wasn't it?' pondered the genie.

 'Enough of the discography!' bellowed MAP's supraconscious aspect reasserting its Superegocentricism. 'See! The infant resides!'

 In the centre of the chamber was a columnar pedestal upon which  was placed an aquarium with a single blue occupant swimming back and forth in some obvious anxiety.On closer inspection, the fish tank was a more sophisticated artefact than it seemed. 'Cryogenics' was the word that first sprang to MAP's mind, and 'mother' was the image arising in the consciousness of his smaller-than-small 'visitor' from elsewhere (more details please; is Elsewhere a star, planet, a moon - or what? - ed.) The container was unusual in itself; though the stuff of which it was constructed afforded the observer a clear view of what was going on inside, it felt warm to  the touch, causing MAP to pull back his palm in alarm lest the sensation should provide a preliminary to fiercer energies being held  in reserve. Consquently, the clarity was, on second glance, illusory; water (liquid? -ed.) vapour condensing to course in rivulets that obscured the walls of the glassy convector's casing. More interesting were the rivulets themselves which, defying the laws of gravity, flowed vertically, horizontally, as well as crosswise and in serpentine squiggles and loops. MAP found himself forced to conclude the whole 'thing' to be alive and was confirmed in his supposition when a larger longer pseudopodia detached itself from the side of the container, picked up the reluctant (judging by the frantic efforts to remove itself to the other end of its miniature swimming pool) occupant and held it upwards and outwards in the direction of the intruders.

 'It's an eye,' said the captain of the S.O.S boat in a flat monotone that displayed no sign of any emotion he might or might not (or might not even be able to - ed.) feel.

 'I can see that,' said MAP as the 'arm' of the creature retracted itself, returning the eye to its self-imposed fitness regime.

 'Can we go now?' asked the saucerer.

 'We've only just got here,' MAP reproved  him irritatedly annoyed by the alien's air of supreme indifference.

 'Well, the Shoggoth infant seems happy enough, so what's there to do?' the pugnacious outworlder asserted and began to walk off in the direction of the somewhat drastically 'lowered' portcullis -only tobe turned back by a quartet of arm-waving Kalis, tongues protruding almost to the breastbone, their Pyramidicals blazing with lightning-bolt intensity.

 'Okay. OKAY!' blared the greenie. 'I get the message. There's something we can do for you?' This time the genie feigned innocence, and was treated to a blistering display of arm waggling, tongue gyrating and Pyramidical illuminations.

 'Evidently so,' decided MAP in his decidedly decisive way.

 

                                                                                                *

 

 The operation was apparently a success. He'd been conscious throughout the whole procedure. The tentacular liquid within the crystalloid box fashioned itself into cool plasmatic surgical tools and MAP's frontal lobe had been probed before the switch had been tripped to uncover the complex web of cellular cyber thread inside which throbbed the blue brightness of his own 'borg enhanced pineal gland.There had been no pain. The saucerer, adding his own careful expertise in spaceship mechanics, had interrupted the 'op' on only three occasions - not because it knew what it was doing (saucerers weren't made up of the same stuff as men -especially men like MAP - the saucerer knew that by now - ed.), but because, it admitted later, it wanted the 'thing' (that is, the 'thing'in thebox - ed.) to think that it did, so that it would be more circumspect in its tinkering with the SM's brain box.

 Neither of them could recall agreeing to the surgery, but after an hour or so had passed without either of the mismatched twosome so much as blinking because of the intensity of their concern with the transplanting of the Shoggoth infant, MAP's frontal lobe had a new occupant. The 'borg component hadn't been discarded, the saucerer noted, but the shog had been incorporated somehow into its fibre optic cable system and was even now putting forth its own creeping living tendrils of Shoggoth provenance, weaving and interweaving with MAP's own synapses, ganglions, and cyberfibres to produce - who knew what kind of creature.

 Towards the end of the implantation MAP's green genie had found  itself unable to stop a procedure it found unusual, a trepanning at the front of the skull which seemed to serve no useful function but which it'd been unable to prevent. Instead, more of the colourful metalanguage of hieroglyphical cryptograms had been pumped into him from one of the Shoggoth eye's 'nanny' limbs, a miniscule 'eye' developing at the tipof a peculiarly designed pseudopodia resembling an oboe (with overtones of cello and viola thrown in) for specifically this purpose. Afterwards, the shapes and symbols had crystallized in his mind to becomea message marked 'URGENT'.

 'The Shoggoth father-mother tells the here,' the alien pointed at its tee-vee aerial, 'that if there are any doubts about its offspring's intentions towards you after death - that is, if you're not sure whether the Shoggoth is going to confer Shoggothdom upon your soul -or eat it, then you have to perform a special ritual or exorcism involving the participation of one woman (the Shoggoth host's wife, that is) and twelve 'just men and true' in which your brain case must be opened and the Shoggoth removed and destroyed before it can reach the seat of your mind's essence and, devouring it, resurrect your corpse to live forever as an emotion parasite.'

 'You mean I have to get married?' MAP said, horrified at this new idea, the mere thought of it sent pearls of sweat coursing along the groove in his back.

 'Or the Shoggoth will devour your soul,' replied the genius of the S.O.S boat that-looked-like-a-sauce-boat-that-looked-like-a-lamp (an Aladdin's lamp, that is - ed.), 'and the girl has to be a Christian.'

 'A Christian what?'

 'It's an 'Old Religion', but the Shoggoth seems impressed with it, so much  so that it seems only a Christian girl - '

 ' - with small breasts?'

 ' - only a Christian girl,' repeated the greenie sternly, 'with or without breasts -'

 'Um,' MAP looked vaguely sad.

 ' - but with a great deal of faith and love for her husband,' the alien cast significant glances at the congealing blobs of putrescences that a few minutes before had wielded surgical implements with skilful precision, 'can rid him of the threat of devourment by a Shoggoth gone bad.'

 'Anything else?'  MAP's innocent look belied the stormclouds gathering upon and about his brow and - temples.'

 'Yes,' said the alien in an offended tone as if annoyed by MAP's persistent attempts to sidestep the issue.

 'I hope that's not an 'Offended Tone',' MAP  hoped, hopping fromone leg to another in a hopeful (or hopful - ed.) kind of way.

 'Very funny...not,' the genie told him, 'the girl also has to organise a god-eating ceremony in which the cadavre, that is, the Shoggoth 'host' is ritually eaten by the thirteen participants in the ritual de-Shogging and dismembering of the corpse.'

 'And if I don't marry,' inquired MAP, more in hope than... (hop? - ed.[ no, certainty - author ] ) certainty.

 'Just hope (or hop - ed.) that the Shoggoth has chosen to 'parent' you rather than suck out your brains,' replied the green-about-the-gills (and trousers too, he's still wearing all that vomit; don't forget such details - ed.) saucerer.

 'I'll give it some serious thought,' thunked MAP, filing the data under the 'garbage' icon in his compuborg cortex, 'now how am I going to get out of this mess you got us into greenie?'

 'Ask the Shoggoth?'

 'Good idea,' agreed MAP mentally activating his 'third-eye' kick-in and hopping (hoping? - ed.) that the Shoggoth 'eye' would now be linked in too, 'here goes -'

 'Nothing seems to be happening MAP,' observed the alien observantly unnecessarily.

 'Look again,' MAP gestured at the portcullis which, shimmering in a sickly ochrish brown fizziness that intensified momentarily and evaporated iron, masonry, sculpture and flagstones, becoming a jaggedly molten aperture like that of a recently erupted volcano, the maw of some still-bleeding creature of hate...

 'Time Out,' ordered MAP, making a 'T', pushing the  saucerer before him, protecting the smaller fry from the driblets of molten listed building (splashing around them like fat bursts from a too hot pan) activating his 'borg compsole to key in his invisi-suit's force-shield and shouldering aside larger chunks of glowing red brick descending with forceful impact from the disturbed dome that, as they looked back in horrified wonder, began to slowly collapse in upon itself, taking the toilsome twosomes, troilisms, some  troglodytes, toothsome trolls, trulls, and a few schoolgirls playing truant from a nearby convent, with it. For a few seconds, the Shoggoth atop the remaining mound of stone and flesh, teetered at the zenith of its achievement, its horripilating head hurled back in rage and defiance at the stars and deathly sickle moon above, its wildly otherworldly eye staring wide, straining as if to see something beyond its ordinary ken, its searchlight beacon searching the heavens for a sign, an instant, a second, a flash of recognition from its lost home amid the starry empyrean.

 And at the last, as the support beneath it buckled, was gone, the Shoggoth hurled itself towards the nearest light's beacon, the death-shaped moon, and it hung there for a second, two, three, then fell; but in the moment of its falling came an answering flash, a bolt of fire, a shape, a collision, a snarl of rage...or...could it be triumph? The sky above was black, the dome was gone, the remaining structure folding in upon itself - the cries of death mixed with those of orgasm as the dying sought some final release and solace in the act of fucking, and something began to descend upon our not-so-gruesome twosome, something vaguely round and pointed at one end with a kind of lid-thing at the top...and what looked like a handle?

 

                                                                                                *

 

 Just how the Shoggoth had been able  to command the S.O.S boat to magically arise and rescue it from disaster MAP couldn't tell, but the saucerer had know-how to express its gratitude once MAP, in a Pyramidical 'eye-to-eye' conversation between father-mother and Shoggoth offspring, was made to hypnagogically understand that the shaggy cyclops wished to return to its Tibetan homeland to live amongst the Yeti.

 'In evolutionary terms, they're like dogs are to us,' MAP explained, 'but, then, we're like dogs to them, so what the Shoggoth thinks of us..?' MAP left the question hanging in the air.

 'The same as I do probably,' the greenius smiled in a greenly enigmatic way, 'want tocome with us to Tibet?'

 'No thanks, tea's up,' said MAP, holding his right hand flat and horizontal while placing his upright left hand and its stiff little fingers below.

 'We'll write I suppose,' supposed the genius of the S.O.S Boat as MAP pointedly pointed his pointing finger at the stars and raised an imaginary teacup to his lips.

 'Of course my pointy-headed friend,' MAP breezed breezily, an all-but merry twinkle appearing in the corner of his eye which his alien visitor, slightly embarassed at this overwhelming display of affection from the Great Man, pretended  not to see, 'where to after you drop off your passenger?'  he glanced warily at the figure of the Shoggoth cramped into the luggage space behind the S.O.S Boat's command seat, its single saucerous eye balefully glaring back at him, searching for some hint of empathy, sympathy, apathy - any emotion it could grab on to and...feed upon.

 'Will you be alright with that?' MAP doubted it somehow.

 'Oh yes.I have an emote-cancelling shield that I can switch on at will,' said the greenie, switching on at will his emote-cancelling shield.

 'Oh...good,' MAP tried to grin wholeheartedly, slightly taken aback at the thoroughness of the alien's approach to problem solving.

 'Bye,' said the greenius with the tee-vee aerial in the top of its head and teleported itself into the S.O.S Boat's cockpit.

 'Bye,' agreed MAP and, as Shoggoth and rumplestiltskin clone shot away into the starry blackness, he walked a few paces forward, turned left and went over to see what was now transpiring on the Larry King #15 talkshow.

 Larry was in the process of interviewing two strangely familiar robotic shapes who, brandishing their ceremonial light swords and flexing their knee joints in preparedness, were explaining to Mr King, in slightly bad and machine-like 'Engrish', that the captured UFO they'd been detailed to guard at the city's showpiece SONYPAN building had disappeared while they were combing the surrounding area for its mysterious green-skinned occupant and a 'renegade' Space Marine who the monster had been in cahoots with.

 'We'rr kirr the bastalds,' the duo affirmed in machine-cooled unison.

 'Yes, ofcourse,' Larry King clone #15 laughed, making that time-honoured cutting-of-the-throat movement towards floating camera #4, signalling that commercial break in which an unwanted guest (or  two -ed.) would be summarily executed in the King's studio, and as the Wind-Up 'droid began making those wind-up movements with its Toshubishi prosthetic limbs that would 'wind-up' this latest segment of the show, two  robotic voices in tandem could be heard, demanding that 'V King' hear out what they had to say.

 As  the 'droid's internals began to play Greensleeves in honour of  upcoming guest, Lord Branagh, who was about to begin a stint as Henry VIII on Broadway, an enraged Larry could be heard screaming obscenities in a high falsetto, the gist of which being that he fucking objected most fucking strongly to the fucking use of the fucking word 'Fucking' in his presence, but he was prepared to forgive that if  'V King' was either a reference to his 'stage' name, that is, 'The King', a pronunciation problem arising due to the Sonypan programmers' obsession with authentically-stupid-sounding Japanese in their SAM-U-RAY, or a misconception about his cloned status, that is, clone XV rather than V.

 MAP, baffled by the whole thing, put his feet up on a nearby pouffe, nestled more comfortably into the armchair he'd been relaxing in, sipped from a cup of tea, and wondered how things were developing with the Yetis and the Shoggoth in Tibet.

 'I bet they're not drinking tea,' he smiled cryptically to himself and lit a 'funny' cigarette.

 

Robin Usher

 

robika2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

Valhalla for Starters

 

'See that small box there?' The Marine Commander pointed a gold beringed glove at some distant spot shining on the horizon of the chosen planet.

 'Uh-huh'. No need for anything beyond non-commital sounds here,the man known to his friends as MAP thought to himself. This grunt didn't know his ass from his elbow. It's a wonder,he thought,that he can lift his armat all with those damn rings. What were they? He pondered for a moment or two. Oh yeah, I remember. The thumb-ring was the one you got at initiation, that is, when the Corps decided you 'belonged' they made you do something even more disgusting than usual. What they did on the battlefield was part of the job - that didn't count.Between themselves they instigated their own scale of 'door  die' ethics.This geezer, so the report said, had been 'invited' to - quite literally - beat the shit out of an orangutan (the yellow and mauve hybrid variety now quite common on Rigel 12 since the Colonisation and the attendant extermination of all native fauna) in order to eat it -the shit,that is. And they gavehim a twenty-four carat two-ouncer for it  MAP smiled inwardly - he knew it was either that or vormit.The inner grin became manifest on the outer side and, bile suppressed, MAP asked the question his host expected.

 'That's the Ark?'

 'Sure.I don't remember the full story.It began back on Earth sometime in pre-history.There was a bunch o' guys who had a little contact with Xtras,xou know?'

 'Uh-huh.' Humankind had wiped out what remained of the once powerful Ta'uk species over two-hundred years ago by detonating a sun near their home world - a pity really. Fromwhat he'd heard the Ta'ukchicks had been interstellar between the sheets - no heads are better than one (especially if it meant fucking a talking cunt). He laughed silently to himself and the nausea passed.

 'Extraterrestrialinfluence?'

 'Sure. The Extras left this box for some guy to use in a religious crusade.Simple instruction manual carved in symbols on the lid. The niggers had it for a while in some godforsaken pisshole.Then a few of the old boys bust in and grabbed it.'

 'Uh-huh.' Special Air Service. Punks,more like.The limeycolonies had been settled by their 29th century equivalents.The bastards still thought they owned human space. MAPpaused reflectively.

 'The Ark of the Covenant.'

 'Yup. So they say.All the guy had to do - Mo?'

 'Moses.'

 'Um. Well,all this guy had to do was hold a titanium rod toward the sun and keep it there.The box did the rest. The fucker's got everything.Laser cannon,plasma bolts.It's got a few things we can't figure out yet.'

 'And the use of it?'

 'Training.'

 'For what?'

 'Wait and see.'

 As the sky began to grow light, MAP could make out what looked like a colony of ants heading out across the plain.These were men of the Dead Hand. The Emperor's new elite. Their role was to be one of suppression. Where they went fear went with them.After they'd gone, nothing moved.

 'It'll take a quarter hour or so.' The Marine Commander flashed a broken-toothed grimace.

 'You'll enjoy this.'

 'I doubt it. Tell me.What's the significance of the pinky ring?'

 'This?' The MC scrutinized  his finger quizically. 'It's an honour ring from the brothers.'

 'What did you do for ir?'

 'Fucked a Perakan wombat.Special.Lastof the breed.Should've seen the fucker squirm.I had to stun the little cunt with a stazer and wear fullbodyarmour - except for here of course.' He indicated his groin.

 'No protection there, huh?'

 'Sure. Prophylactically speaking, I'm a great believer in safe sex.' The MC spat laconically. 'Besides, we didn't want the fucker tobreednow, did we?'

 MAP indicated by a nod and a wink that the joke had been acceptable.Sound and movement made him turn his head to look back again at the flatlands.

 'Here,take the viewer.'

 MAP tookhold of what seemed at first glance to be a small square of mirrored plastic.Shapes scurried over it.He movedthe thing around in the air before his eyes. As he did so large segments of the attacking forces became visible to him. He applied a slight pressure to the rim of the object and the screen afforded a closer view of what he was seeing.The warriors were already advancing -and falling.Somehowthe box had sensed the intent of the hosts before it and had begun to react.What looked like boltsof lightning shivered through the air over the serried ranks of the Dead Hand.

 'Like a knife through butter,' MAP mused.

 'Huh?'

 Old Earth phrase..,' he stopped, mouth drying in mid-sentence. The Dead Hand were being decimated clinically and mercilessly.

 'They underestimated the technology. Stupid cunts.' The MC barked an order into his wristset. Immediately what was left of the combat group were bathed in a diffused green haze.The lightning from the Ark kept on striking it for a while but to no effect. Eventually, the box shut down - it was waiting. The MC gave another order. The green haze becameorange. A huge animal seemed to rise fromwithin what remained of the oncemighty Dead Hand.

 'Bio-tank,' the MC explained. 'Expensive. One guy sits in it at a time. The machine uses his brain - picks it you might say - to direct its tactical programming. Fast burn out though. Fresh guy needed every thirty seconds. See?'

 MAP perused the viewer. The bio-tank rumbledforward leaving a trail of debris behind  it like rabbit droppings. Only the green and crimson, the battle armour and the blood, gave an indication of what was being chewed up and spat out.

 'They're queueing up like kids before the principal.'

 It was true. Men with faces that seemed already in the early stages of rigor mortis walked by the side of the monstrous vehicle as it trundled slowlyin search of its fate. Every fifteen metres a man would enter a hatch in the side and another green and crimson turd would appear in the dust. At last the ponderous war machine was within range of its target. The plasma cannon spewed out its deadly rain - and the box did nothing. The rain of death increased in intensity - and the box glowed red. A fresh man every fifteen seconds, then ten, then five... The box went white and seemed to disintegrate in a silent cloud of silvery vapour.

 'Promises promises,' the MC groaned. 'Where's the God out of that machine? If that's the best He can do then we're all gods in this outfit. Right MAP?'

 'Wait!'

 The cloud of light seemed to be solidifying into some kind of weird form. A gigantic figure with...what? 'My God, it's a rainbow!' MAP breathed to himself. The huge form shook its head and opened baby-blue eyes as if waking from a great and peaceful sleep. It shook its mane of reddish hair and the seven-coloured band of whatever-the-hell-it-was about its head shivered. It turned to see what had disturbed its rest, eyes seemingly filling with...

 'Love.'

 'Eh?'

 'Forget it.' MAP stared intensely at the viewing screen.The figure raised its arm,and it seemed suddenly to contain something hard and bright and vaguely metallic yet living and pulsing, glowing fulsomely with terrible but beautiful energy - and pain. The arm rose and fell but once and the bio-tank was gone in a flash of fire.Then the figure was gone too -and the box waited once more.

 'Holy shit,' growled the MC.

 'I believe we've just been introduced to the Archangel Michael,' MAP observed drily. 'I wonder what's in the box? Anybody know?'

 'We'll find out for you sir. It's just a question of time.' The MC grew red and started to bluster.

 'Teething problems, you know how it is with new units sir?'

 'Yes, of course.But that would seem to be the end of this particular unit, wouldn't it Commander?'

 The MC grinned. 'Not quite sir. Everyman in the regiment has a chip in his head, a memory chip.We aim to learn from our mistakes, you see? It'll take the tech squads a month or so to put the lads back together but they'll soon be as good as new and twice as ugly:'

 'The Dead Hand are to be a regiment of cyborgs?'

 'They will be now sir.'

 'They knew?'

 'Only the best for us sir. We're Special, yousee? Like the old boys.'

 'Forgive me sergeant. I didn't mean to offend your sense of honour.'

 'No harm done sir.' The MC glanced at the scene of carnage with a cold grey eye. 'Don't worry sir.We'll crack it for you.'

 'Doesn't it bother you sergeant, to be dead already I mean?'

 'Oh, don'tlet it bother you sir. It doesn't bother us. We're Special, you know?' The MC's glance flicked ruminatively over the landscape.

 'Do you know what hubris means sir?'

 'Why yes, of course.It's the sin of pride, isn't it? The idea that men can fight and triumph against the gods - Greek mythology?'

 'I think so sir, yes - or God maybe?' The MC laughed. 'We're immortal in a way sir. Gods if you will.But we don'tlike it sir. We don'tlike it one little bit.' There was a note of anger in the MC's voice. 'We want our humanity back, and a little bit more.' He glanced at the box on the screen.

 'You know the motto of the Order sir?'

 'I think so,yes. Let mesee if I can remember aright...er,it's something like 'we all go down together and we all come up together.' Am I right?'

 'That's it sir.Everybody thinks it refers to our code sir.You know the rule.Wenever leave anybody behind.'

 'A fine tradition sergeant.'

 'Yes sir.We think so sir.'

 'But I don't quite see...'

 'You know the legend of the angels who fought against the Lord, don't you sir?'

 'Why, yes. Certainly.'

 The MC's gaze became diamantine. 'This time we win.'